Lambasting the Election Commission for failure to maintain Covid protocol during poll campaigns, the Madras high court on Monday said the EC “should be put up on murder charges…for being the most irresponsible institution.” The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy even threatened to stop the counting of assembly poll votes slated for May 2.
“Now we assure you we will stop counting if we do not find before May 2 a blueprint on how proper maintenance of Covid protocol will be maintained so that this state does not succumb to your idiosyncrasies any further,” the judges observed in the course of their oral observations.
“You (ECI) are the only institution responsible for the situation that we are in today. 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’ like a broken record,” the bench said.
“The significance of adhering to such protocol may have been lost on the EC going by the puerile silence on the part of the commission as campaigns and rallies were conducted without distancing norms being maintained and in wanton disregard of the other items of the protocol," it added.
A bit of the observations found mention in the order as well, when the bench said: “At no cost should the counting result in being a catalyst for a further surge – poliics or no politics, and whether the counting takes place in a staggered manner or is deferred.”
“Public health is of paramount importance and it is distressing that constitutional authorities have to be reminded in such regard. It is only when citizens survive that they enjoy the other rights that this democratic republic guarantees unto them. The situation is now one of survival and protection and, everything else comes thereafter,” the court said.