The Madras High Court has lashed out at the Election Commission of India (ECI) for failing to see to political parties followed the COVID-19 protocol in the election rallies. As such, it said the ECI is singularly responsible for spreading COVID-19 and murder charges should be imposed on it for its “irresponsible” behaviour.
The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy criticized the election watchdog for not stopping political parties from violating the COVID protocols. “You (ECI) are the only institution responsible for the situation that we are in today. You have been singularly lack any kind of exercise of authority. You have not taken measures against political parties holding rallies despite every order of this court saying ‘maintain COVID protocol, maintain COVID protocol’,” the court said and asked whether the ECI “was on another planet when poll rallies were held”.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the state transport minister MR Vijayabhaskar seeking directions to the ECI to follow certain measures during the counting of votes on May 2 at his Karur constituency, where a total of 77 candidates had contested.
The bench reminded the counsel of ECI that it is all about “survival and protection” now that “everything else comes next”. The court said it would issue orders to stop counting if ECI fails to prepare a blueprint before May 2 on how COVID protocols will be maintained during the process. “This needs to be done to ensure that this state does not succumb to your idiosyncrasies any further.”
The court reiterated that a plan must be in place in view of the grim situation and the surge of COVID-19 cases today, even if Tamil Nadu may be better off than some other states. “At no cost can the counting result in catalyst for a further surge, politics or no politics, and whether the counting takes place in a staggered manner or is deferred. Public health is of paramount importance and it is distressing that constitutional authorities have to be reminded in such regard,” it said. “It is only when citizen survives that he enjoys the other rights that this democratic republic guarantees unto him.”
The court noted that the situation is now one of survival and protection, and everything else comes second to it.