Lashing out against the Election Commission, the Madras High Court has called it "the most irresponsible institution in the country" and felt it should probably face murder charges for not preventing parties from breaching Covid-19 protocols during campaigning during the Assembly elections. It also warned of stopping the counting process on May 2 unless proper plans were drawn up for the process.
A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, while hearing a plea moved by Tamil Nadu Transport Minister M.R. Vijayabhaskhar, said: “You (EC) are the only institution responsible for the situation of Covid and should probably be put on murder charges for not preventing political parties from misuse of Covid 19 protocol. You have been singularly lacking any kind of exercise of authority. You have not taken measures against political parties holding rallies despite the court saying ‘Maintain Covid protocols, maintain Covid protocols’.”
The minister had petitioned the court seeking direction to the Election Commission to follow a slew of measures in ensuring fairness during the counting of votes on May 2 for Karur constituency where he had contested the elections as an AIADMK candidate. There were 77 candidates in fray at Karur constituency.
“We assure you that we will stop counting if we do not find before May 2 a blueprint on how proper maintenance of Covid protocol is assured so that this state does not succumb to the idiosyncrasies any further,” the bench said.
The Chief Justice also observed that public health is of paramount importance and that it was distressing to remind constitutional authorities on the counting and possibilities of a further surge after May 2.
Meanwhile, on the last day of her 50-day long poll campaign in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee criticised the Election Commission for allegedly working in favour of the BJP, besides holding the poll panel responsible for the upsurge in Covid cases in the country.
Welcoming the Madras HC observation, Banerjee said, “The Election Commission cannot ignore the fact that it is responsible for this huge upsurge in Covid cases in the country. It brought 2 lakh police personnel from outside, and none of them has gone through Covid test.
“They are acquiring schools, colleges and stadia, causing hindrance for the government and the people. I have been continuously telling the EC to withdraw the forces, but it kept on working under the instruction of someone else. The EC is responsible for the spread of the infection and it cannot shrug off the responsibility.”
Earlier, the Calcutta High Court had censured the EC, saying that issuing circulars and holding meetings on Covid guidelines were not enough.
Following the Calcutta HC order, the EC had capped the attendance at public events to 500 people for the last two phases of Assembly elections in West Bengal.
Accusing the Commission of working as the mouthpiece of BJP, the Chief Minister, who was campaigning virtually for Trinamool Congress candidates in North Kolkata, said, “We have told repeatedly to club the elections, but the EC kept on working on the directives of the BJP. This BJP government is an example of ‘monumental incompetence’. It has only one agenda and that is to conquer and for that, it has jeopardised the lives of the people”.
Cautioning the EC of approaching the Supreme Court, Banerjee said, “The EC has lost all its credibility. The democratic exercise of an entire country cannot depend on the whims and fancies of three nominated persons. They had done it in 2016, but I kept quiet thinking that they will rectify themselves, but nothing has changed.
“The Election Commission has lost all its credibility, but someone should ‘bell the cat’ and so I am going to the Supreme Court against this partisan attitude of the Commission and its irresponsibility that led to the deaths of so many people.”
The Chief Minister also accused the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre of depriving the state of its legitimate oxygen supply.
“SAIL used to supply oxygen to us, but it has been told to give the supply to Uttar Pradesh. Naturally, I had to divert the oxygen needed for industrial purposes to meet the medical requirement. I have arranged for another 5,000 cylinders. We are in favour of providing free vaccine to all the people, but they are not providing us with the details so that we can purchase them from the market,” Banerjee added. (IANS)