'Were you on another planet during political rallies?': Madras HC slams ECI for COVID-19 surge

Transport Minister MR Vijayabhaskar sought the court to direct the ECI  to adopt strict adherence to safety measures to ensure fairness in the counting of votes scheduled for May 2. 

Published: 26th April 2021 12:58 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th April 2021 12:28 AM   |  A+A-

Huge crowds are seen at an election campaign rally. Image used for representational purposes (Photo | PTI)

Huge crowds seen at an election campaign rally. (File Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Censuring the Election Commission of India (ECI) for not stopping political parties that were deliberately abusing the Covid-19 protocol during their political rallies, the Madras High Court on Monday held the commission "singularly" responsible for the second wave of the pandemic surge in the country.

The court also warned that it will stop the counting on May 2 if strict Covid-19 protocol is not devised by the poll body.

The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the observation on a plea moved by Transport Minister MR Vijayabhaskar. The minister sought the court to direct the ECI  to adopt strict adherence to safety measures to ensure fairness in the counting of votes scheduled for May 2. 

According to the petitioner, 77 candidates had contested in the constituency and with the Covid-19 guidelines in place due to the Sunday lockdowns, the ECI must make sure the votes polled by each candidate are displayed, announced, and tallied clearly during every round. It should also ensure that the next round of counting is not started without the consent of all agents. He also sought the installation of more closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at the counting centre and ensure maximum surveillance. 

The bench during the hearing on Monday observed "At no cost can counting result in a catalyst for a further surge, politics or no politics, whether the counting takes place in a staggered manner or is deferred."

However, the ECI  contended that safety measures have been put in place. The Commission also assured that it will file a detailed affidavit on the same. 

The bench hearing the submission  orally observed, "Were you on another planet when political rallies were being held?"

"Election Commission Officers should be booked on murder charges probably," the bench stressed. 

"Public health is of paramount importance and it is distressing that constitutional authorities have to be reminded in such regard. It is only when a citizen survives that he'll be able to enjoy the rights that a democratic republic guarantees," Chief Justice observed. 

Observing that the situation now is of survival and protection, the bench directed the Election Commission to file a detailed report by April 30 on the blueprint of Covid-19 protocol for the counting day. The court directed the commission for the blueprint to be filed after a detailed consultation with the state Health Department Secretary. 

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