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CPM wraps up meet after Kerala HC orders curbs

A division bench of the court acted upon a PIL, which challenged the sudden withdrawal of an order of the Kasaragod Collector, putting restriction on meetings attended by more than 50 people.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: January 22, 2022 4:58:34 am
S Ramachandran Pillai inaugurating CPI(M) District Conference of Kottayam (Twitter)

Hours after it began a three-day district conference in Kasaragod on Friday, the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala was forced to wind up the party meet following a Kerala High Court order banning gatherings of more than 50 people in the district as part of Covid-19 restrictions.

A division bench of the court acted upon a PIL, which challenged the sudden withdrawal of an order of the Kasaragod Collector, putting restriction on meetings attended by more than 50 people.

The Opposition alleged that Collector Bhandari Swagat Ranveerchand was forced to withdraw the order Thursday night, hours after it was issued, under duress from the CPI(M), which wanted to have its district conference attended by 200-odd delegates and other volunteers.

Incidentally, when the government introduced grading for districts to impose Covid-19 restrictions from Thursday, the districts of Kasaragod and Thrissur, where CPI(M) conferences were slated to begin on Friday, did not fit into the new criterion for imposing restrictions, despite both reporting high test positivity rate.

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Following the court order, Bhandari issued a fresh order in the evening, banning all functions attended by more than 50 people for a week. After issuing the order, he went on leave till the end of the month.

While Kasaragod district conference was abandoned on the first day itself, the CPI(M) decided to continue the district conference in Thrissur.

CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told reporters that the party conference in Kasaragod was abandoned after the court’s intervention. “The meeting in Thrissur would be canceled on Saturday. The High Court has issued the directive (banning meetings with attendance of more than 50 people) without hearing the CPI(M). However, we respect the court order,’’ he said.

Earlier in the day, the ruling party came under fire from the Opposition for its decision to conduct district conferences in Kasaragod and Thrissur at a time when the state is witnessing a massive surge in Covid cases.

The state government earlier changed the norms for imposing restrictions on districts, making it based on the Covid-19 caseload in hospitals rather than the test positivity rate in the district. Following this, no restrictions on the number of people who can gather for events were imposed in Thrissur and Kasaragod districts, although gatherings were restricted to under 50 people in most other districts. The Opposition alleged that declaring Thrissur and Kasaragod as “green zone” was meant only to facilitate the CPI(M)’s district conferences “with scant regard for the health of public”.

Congress leader V D Satheesan, the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, said: “Until a day earlier, Kerala had restrictions based on test positivity rate. This norm was changed, and no curbs were imposed in these two districts to help the CPI(M). Party district conference in Thiruvananthapuram, attended by thousands, had contributed to a major surge in Covid-19 cases in the district. The CPI(M) is now merchant of death.”

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