The Madras High Court on Monday squarely blamed the Election Commission of India (ECI) for the raging second wave of COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and asked if the officials were in some other planet when political parties took out Assembly election rallies without adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols despite several judicial orders.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said public health was of paramount importance and that it was distressing to note that Constitutional authorities had to be reminded of it. Only when a citizen survives, would he/she be able to enjoy the rights that a democratic republic guarantees to him/her, they said.
“This situation now is of survival and protection and everything comes next,” the judges said. They warned the ECI of stalling the counting of votes scheduled for May 2, and ordering postponement of counting to June or July, if a blueprint on the maintenance of COVID-19protocol at the counting centres was not produced before the court by April 30.
The orders were passed on a writ petition filed by Transport Minister M.R. Vijayabhaskar, a contestant from Karur Assembly constituency, seeking a direction to the ECI to put in place stringent measures aimed at ensuring fairness in counting of votes. During the hearing, the Chief Justice expressed displeasure over the ECI having turned a blind eye to safeguarding public health.
Wondering how it could have allowed political parties to hold massive rallies with people not wearing masks and not following physical distancing norms, he said: “You have been the most irresponsible institution in the last few months. You are the only institution singularly responsible for the situation we are facing today.”