The Election Commission of India has barred any victory processions to be held after the counting on May 2. The press release issued on April 27 states that a maximum of two persons will be allowed to accompany the winning candidate to receive the election certificate from the Returning Officer.
This order of the EC comes immediately after the Madras High Court vehemently criticised the EC on its handling of the Assembly elections. On April 26, the Madras High Court bench led by its Chief Justice, Sanjib Banerjee, had orally observed, “You are the only institution that is responsible for the situation today. No action against political parties taking rallies despite every order of the Court. Your election commission should be put up on murder charges probably!”
On April 27, the court cautioned the state that if Covid-19 norms are not followed during the counting of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election votes, scheduled on May 2, the process will be directed to stop “then and there”. The court further observed that public health is more important than counting votes and directed the EC to put appropriate measures in place.
The EC’s statement is every bit as defensive in its words as it puts the onus of enforcement of Covid-19 measures upon the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).
“The State Disaster Management Authority didn’t stop public gatherings under the DM Act 2005 during this period. Whatever was prescribed, EC directed all to adhere to it and in case of violation to book under the DM Act 2005. EC continuously directed the State/District authorities to enforce the extant instructions of the NDMA/SDMA,” the statement reads.
The statement points out how in 2020, Bihar Assembly elections were carried out amidst the prescribed lockdown and enforcement measures. The EC states that the enforcement under the Disaster Management Act the state authorities are required to ensure Covid compliance in the matter of public gatherings etc. for campaign purposes and at no occasion, the Commission can take over the task of SDMA for enforcing these instructions.
The EC states that while announcing elections in all the five states, it had reiterated instructions on February 26 and the campaign in Tamil Nadu ended in April when the second wave was yet to begin. The point the Commission seems to have missed is that the after effects of large public gatherings are not seen immediately but only over the course of following days or weeks when the virus spreads among people. In any case, the Commission has made it clear through its statement that implementation of the instructions and guidelines issued by related to Covid.
The stand taken by EC has been justified by it citing its submissions before the Calcutta and Kerala high courts where the courts were satisfied with the same. On April 27, the Kerala High Court dismissed a bunch of petitions seeking lockdown on May 2, the counting day, as the court stated that adequate steps were taken by EC and state government.
However, the Calcutta High Court had indeed reprimanded the EC stating that the commission had failed to implement its own guidelines and circulars despite the court directing the administration to follow through; and only after such reprimand had the EC barred public rallies and roadshows in West Bengal where two phases of polling were still pending, then.
The EC statement may be read here:
Courtesy: Sabrang India