NEW DELHI: Acting tough, the Election Commission on Saturday issued a notice to the Samajwadi Party for organising a public gathering "in the name of virtual rally" at its Lucknow office in violation of COVID-19 norms.
Referring to Friday's event in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, the notice stated that after considering the available material and extant instructions in the matter, the poll panel has decided to provide the party an opportunity to explain its stand regarding the "violations".
"Your explanation shall reach the Commission within 24 hours of receipt of this notice, failing which the Commission shall take appropriate decision in the matter without further reference to you," the notice to the SP general secretary read.
Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh will be held in seven phases between February 10 and March 7.
Currently, there is a ban on public meetings and rallies in view of the pandemic.
The notice referred to media reports about the violation of Covid guidelines of the Commission in a public gathering in the office compound of the Samajwadi Party at Vikramaditya Marg in Lucknow.
It said the Chief Electoral Officer of Uttar Pradesh in his report has informed that the existing "Covid protocol has been violated by organising public gathering in the said premises falling under Gautampalli Police Station by Samajwadi Party in the name of virtual rally".
The EC said the Chief Electoral Officer also informed that an FIR has been lodged under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Disaster Management Act against "2000-2500 political functionaries of Samajwadi Party" on January 14.
The Commission said that political parties are important stakeholders in the electoral process and they always cooperate with Election Commission in carrying out its constitutional duties of conducting elections "even during challenging times".
"Political parties are expected to set high standards among the public at large by following the laws of land in letter and spirit during the period of elections," it said.
Available reports, prima facie, suggest that the Samajwadi Party has violated the directions of the poll panel, it said.