Madras High Court refuses to restrain media, raps Election Commission for not doing its job
As a rebut to the Centre, the Madras High Court on Friday refused to entertain a petition by the Election Commission of India seeking to restrain the media from publishing the court’s oral observations blaming the election watchdog for the rise in COVID-19 cases across the country.
The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, on Monday, had come down heavily on the ECI for “not stopping political parties from violating the COVID protocol” in the rallies for assembly elections. The court had told the ECI on Monday that “you should be put on murder charges probably”, that “you are the most irresponsible over the last few months in not stopping political parties from wanton abuse of the COVID protocol” and that “you are the only institution responsible for the situation that we are in today.
The ECI, on Friday, said the oral observations had caused it grave prejudice and that police complaints were being filed against it seeking action for criminal offence. Rejecting requests by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing ECI, to direct media houses to confine their reports to written orders and to refrain from reporting oral observations of judges during the court proceedings, the court said that the Commission can anyway approach the courts “if any frivolous complaints are made.”
The Madras High Court has also been irked at the poor preparedness of the Central government’s handling of the second wave of COVID-19 infections. The first bench, on a suo motu public interest writ proceeding initiated to check the preparedness of the state to tackle the second wave besides assessing the availability of oxygen, beds, drugs and ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients, asked the Centre what they were doing for the past 10 to 15 months. “
“Why are we acting only now in April, this will help only in July. Despite having almost a year-long lockdown, see the situation we are in,” the court said. The Additional Solicitor-General R Shankaranarayanan, representing the Centre, said the Centre did not expect a second wave in the country. As such, the court asked, “Do you even consult experts on such issues?”
Also Read: Funding Alert: Pune startup ElasticRun secures Rs 550 crore for deeper penetration in rural market
CJ Banerjee reminded that there cannot be ad-hocism in dealing with a pandemic. “The Centre should have acted in a planned and informed manner with expert advice.” The court said post-mortem on both the Centre’s “endeavour to indicate that the surge in numbers may have been unexpected and that preparatory measures had been taken for quite some time and EC’s concern at sensationalism “may have to wait particularly in the light of the immediate measures that may be put in place.”
Pingback: SC raps Centre for not granting compulsory licences to more pharma companies for manufacture of drugs | The Plunge Daily