Madras High Court on ECI’s failure to stop “abuse” of COVID norms in election rallies

Madras High Court on ECI's failure to stop "abuse" of COVID norms in election rallies

Earlier today while hearing the petition led by AIADMK’s raising concerns over whether adequate facilities are in place to ensure COVID-19 protocol during vote counting at Karur constituency, where about 77 candidates are contesting the elections the Hon’ble Madras HC opined that “the only institution that is responsible for the situation today is AIADMK”, likewise the Hon’ble court also stated that “No action against political parties taking rallies despite every order of the Court”. 

Additionally, the Hon’ble HC in the instant matter orally remarked that the “Election Commission officials should be tried for murder charges for its failure to stop the abuse of COVID-19 protocol in political rallies thereby contributing to the COVID-19 crisis”.

As the hearing progressed, the Hon’ble Chief Justice Madras HC aired his concerns over the Election Commission’s failure to act against political parties outing COVID-19 protocol during the election season and subsequently while passing the order the Hon’ble bench observed, “despite repeated orders of this court going on like a broken record at the foot of at least every election petition entertained that COVID-19 protocol ought to be maintaining during the campaign time the significance of adhering to such protocol may have been lost on the Election Commission going by the puerile silence on the part of the Commission as campaigns and rallies were conducted without distancing norms being maintained and in wanton disregard of the other items of the protocol.” 

Whereas in the due course the standing counsel for the Election Commission, duly submitted that preventive measures are being put in place to ensure COVID-19 safety norms are maintained during counting. To which the Hon’ble Chief Justice orally remarked, “Were you on another planet when political rallies were being held?” 

Likewise, the instant case also provoked the Hon’ble Court to take up larger concerns, including whether there is a strategy in place to ensure COVID-19 protocol is maintained in all counting booths on counting day (2nd May 2021). 

Moreover, concern was also expressed by the Hon’ble Court on Thursday when the Hon’ble court enumerated a suo motu case to monitor the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state of Tamil Nadu. Furthermore, the Hon’ble Court also restated that a plan must be in place given the grave situation and the surge of COVID-19 cases today, even if Tamil Nadu may be better off than some other States. 

Later the Hon’ble court while passing the order stated that “at no cost can the counting result is a catalyst for a further surge, politics or no politics, and whether the counting takes place in a flabbergasted 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 is only when the citizen survives that he enjoys the other rights that this democratic republic guarantees unto him. The situation is now one of survival and protection and everything else comes second to it.” 

Finally, the Hon’ble court while recording the Election Commission’s submissions as regards the steps being taken at the Karur counting booth to ensure that COVID-19 norms are maintained, the Hon’ble Court added that the “Similar appropriate measures have to be adopted at every counting center and regular sanitization, proper hygienic conditions, the mandatory wearing of masks and adherence to the social distancing norms should be followed. The State Health Secretary and Director of Public Health should be consulted by Election Commission and the officer responsible in the State to put appropriate measures in place immediately.” 

The matter is posted for hearing next on April 30, 2021, when the Court will review the situation.

Sneh Somani
Experienced Legal Research Assistant with a demonstrated history of working in the law practice industry. Skilled in Journalism, Research, and Writing. Strong legal professional with a bachelor of arts and law focused in Law from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. Engrossed work in Gender studies and Women Empowerment and Contemporary Issues.