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After Madras HC rap, Election Commission bans victory rallies on May 2

This comes a day after the Madras High Court had asked the poll body to prepare a blueprint of how Covid protocols would be followed on the day of counting.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: April 28, 2021 3:28:05 am
The Madras High Court on Monday pulled up the poll body for “not stopping political parties”. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

A DAY after the Madras High Court came down heavily on the Election Commission (EC) for failing to stop political parties from violating Covid protocols during their campaign rallies last month, and warned it over the coming counting day, the poll body announced a ban on all victory processions following the results.

The counting of votes for the Assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry will take place on May 2.

The Commission also capped the number of people permitted to accompany the winning candidate to receive the election certificate to two, saying the decisions were taken in “view of the surge in Covid-19 cases throughout the country”.

On Monday, the Madras High Court had slammed the EC, calling it “the only institution responsible for the situation we are in today”. Directing it to prepare a blueprint before May 2 on how Covid protocol will be maintained so that “this state does not succumb to your idiosyncrasies any further”, the court had warned that it might order counting to be stopped otherwise.

The scathing observations followed the Calcutta High Court censuring the EC for not doing enough to ensure that political parties followed Covid protocols amid the surging second wave.

In its order, on a petition filed by AIADMK leader and Tamil Nadu Transport Minister M R Vijayabhaskar, the Madras High Court said, “You have been singularly lacking any kind of exercise of authority. You have not taken measures against political parties holding rallies despite every order of this court saying ‘maintain Covid protocol, maintain Covid protocol’.”

The AIADMK leader has sought directions to the EC to implement strict measures during counting on May 2 in his constituency Karur, where 77 candidates contested.

In its reaction, the EC said the statements being attributed to the Madras High Court in the media “do not find mention in the order finally passed”. It also defended that it was up to the State authorities to ensure Covid compliance at public gatherings for campaign purposes. “At no occasion, the Commission takes over the task of the SDMA (State Disaster Management Authority) for enforcement of Covid-19 instructions,” the statement says.

In a veiled response to the criticism that the EC did not stop election campaigning in West Bengal despite political parties requesting the same, it noted that the SDMA did not bar any public gatherings under the Disaster Management Act 2005, and that its direction to stakeholders was to follow the instructions of the SDMA.

The EC also mentioned that from February 26, when the elections were announced, to April 4, when elections ended everywhere except West Bengal, the second wave of Covid-19 was “yet to be visible fully”. It also pointed out that the Kerala High Court on Tuesday said it was satisfied with the steps taken by the EC and the state government for counting on May 2.

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