The Election Commission of India said on Tuesday that the enforcement of COVID-19 protocols under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 was the responsibility of the State authorities, a day after the Madras High Court said the ECI was unable to ensure political parties followed the rules while campaigning for the Assembly elections.
In its oral observations, the court blamed the ECI for the second wave of COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, where polling was held on April 6 and counting of votes is scheduled for May 2.
In a statement, the ECI said on Tuesday that “the statements being attributed to the Hon’ble High Court in certain sections of media do not find mention in the order finally passed.”
The ECI said it would comply with the directions of the court and apprise it of the steps taken to ensure safe elections.
“The enforcement under the 2005 Act has to be ensured by the SDMA [State Disaster Management Authority] concerned and notified authorities under the Act. The Commission has always emphasised in its 21.8.2020 and all subsequent instructions that the State authorities shall ensure COVID-19 compliance in the matter of public gatherings, etc. for campaign purposes. At no occasion, the Commission takes over the task of SDMA for enforcement of COVID-19 instructions,” it said.
It added that the campaign for the Tamil Nadu polls ended on April 4 and “fortunately, the second wave of COVID-19 was yet to be visible fully by that time.”
The ECI said polling was conducted while following COVID-appropriate measures. It added that Tamil Nadu ordered lockdown restrictions due to the second surge from April 20, 16 days after the campaign ended.