The Calcutta High Court has expressed dissatisfaction with the Election Commission of India over enforcement of COVID-19 health safety norms during the ongoing West Bengal assembly election process.
A division bench presided by Chief Justice T B N Radhakrishnan, hearing three public interest litigations (PILs) seeking enforcement of COVID protocol during the elections, said issuance of circulars and holding meetings on COVID safety were not enough and sought an affidavit by Friday on steps taken to enforce the norms.
The PILs expressed concern that people participating in the ongoing election campaigns were not adhering to COVID norms and expressed apprehension that this may result in a serious spike in COVID-19 cases in West Bengal, which is currently facing up to second wave of the pandemic. “We are not satisfied with the materials on record to state that the Election Commission of India and its officers on ground in West Bengal have enforced their circulars,” it said.
The Court said the circulars of the ECI show the route map and the protocol for the political parties, their workers, the people at large and responsible management by the officers including the police and other forces under its command. “Issuance of circulars and holding of meetings by themselves do not discharge the onerous responsibility of the ECI,” the court observed. The bench said it is sure that circulars are not mere advisories. The high court directed the ECI to file an affidavit by Friday listing the steps it has taken and its views on the issues raised by it.
The Court had on April 13 directed that in view of a resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic, all health-related guidelines on campaigning for state assembly elections be enforced in the strictest possible manner. The bench had said that it is in public interest that the administration ensures that all COVID protocols are strictly adhered to by all concerned, including those engaged in election campaigns. It has also directed that stringent measures be taken against persons who fail, neglect or refuse to order the protocols.