Chennai: In its sharpest criticism, Madras High Court on Monday held Election Commission singularly responsible for starting the second wave of coronavirus in the country and stated that the polling body should probably be booked for murder as crowded campaigns were seen amid the five state polls that continued in the middle of raging virus cases. The court also threatened to stop the counting of votes on Sunday if a “blueprint” is not in place.
The EC will react after it sees the order, sources said.
“Your institution is singularly responsible for the second wave of COVID-19. Your officers should be booked on murder charges probably,” the Madras High Court told the Election Commission.
The election body had failed to enforce Covid safety rules like masks, sanitisers and distancing during campaigning despite court orders, said the High Court.
“Were you on another planet when the poll rallies were held,” Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee questioned.
The High Court also asked for a plan to enforce Covid rules on May 2, the day of the results, by Friday. Without it, the counting could also be stopped, said the High Court while hearing a petition by Tamil Nadu Transport Minister MR Vijayabaskar seeking Covid compliance in counting halls in Karur constituency, from where he contested.
“Public health is paramount. Distressing that constitutional authorities ought to be reminded. It is only when a citizen survives that he’ll be able to enjoy the rights that a democratic republic guarantees,” the court said.
Orders are expected later today.
As of now, Covid cases have seen a unprecedented rise alongside elections held in Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry. Today, India reported 3.52 lakh cases and 2,812 deaths in 24 hours, another grim record.
However, the polling commission stopped roadshows and rallies and limited public meetings to 500 people last Thursday, with just three more rounds of voting left in Bengal’s record eight-phase election and all other states done with the vote.
Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that he was cancelling his campaign visit to Bengal, shortly before the election body’s order, because of a Covid meeting. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who also restricted her campaign soon after, questioned why the EC had waited till the PM’s announcement to impose Covid curbs on campaigning.
The Trinamool Congress chief also hit out at the poll body for rejecting her repeated appeals to club the last few rounds of voting in Bengal.