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‘Madras HC remarks harsh but can’t be expunged’: Supreme Court to EC

A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, however, acknowledged that the high court's remarks were "harsh", but did not expunge them saying they do not form part of the judicial order.

The Supreme Court of India (File Photo)

Lauding the high courts for effectively supervising the Covid-19 pandemic management, the Supreme Court Thursday refused to expunge critical remarks of the Madras High Court holding the poll panel responsible for the surge in COVID cases in the country. It also trashed the plea that media be restrained from reporting observations of judicial proceedings, saying it will be a “retrograde” act.

A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, however, acknowledged that the high court’s remarks were “harsh”, but did not expunge them saying they do not form part of the judicial order.

The bench, also comprising justice M R Shah, said the media cannot be restrained from reporting observations made during the course of hearings. “Courts have to remain alive to evolving technology of media, it is not good, if it is restrained from reporting judicial proceedings,” the bench said.

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Coming down heavily on the Election Commission for “not stopping political parties” from violating Covid protocols during their campaign rallies for Assembly polls in four states and a Union Territory over the last month, the Madras HC had said that murder charges should probably be imposed on the panel for being “the only institution responsible for the situation that we are in today”.

The Election Commission had said the Madras HC’s comment was “uncalled for, blatantly disparaging and derogatory” and moved the apex court on Saturday.

On Wednesday, The Indian Express had reported that the poll panel’s plea in the Madras High Court to gag the media from reporting oral observations of judges and its Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the top court were not unanimously approved by the Commission. So sharp was the difference in opinion between the two Election Commissioners over the response to the censure by the Madras High Court that the dissenting EC wanted to put his views on record in a separate affidavit, The Indian Express has learned.

However, the Election Commission rejected his suggestion and didn’t file his affidavit with the Madras High Court. The dissenting EC’s subsequent request to attach his separate affidavit to the SLP filed in the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court’s “murder-charges” remark was also ignored.

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