After Madras HC ‘murder charges’ comment over rallies, EC seeks to stop media from reporting judges’ ‘oral comments’
The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday moved a plea in Madras High Court seeking to refrain media from reporting oral comments of judges, days after the court pulled up the poll panel for allowing campaign rallies in four states and a Union territory. The poll body's plea comes against the backdrop of Madras HC chief justice Sanjib Banerjee’s remark that Election Commission officials should probably be "booked on murder charges" for allowing political rallies during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In its petition, the EC has stated that media should not report oral comments made by judges and that only orders must be reported.
The court on Monday remarked that the EC is to be held "singularly responsible" for the Covid-19 second wave, with which the country is currently battling. A bench of chief justice Sanjib Banerjee and justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy warned the poll body that the court could even stall the counting of votes on May 2 unless it produced a blueprint on April 30 on Covid-19 protocol at counting centres. “At no cost can counting result as a catalyst for a further surge, politics or no politics, whether the counting takes place in a staggered manner or is deferred,” the court said.
The poll panel, however, later told Madras HC that is the State Disaster Management Authority’s (SDMA’s) responsibility to ensure that protocols are followed, according to the Covid-19 rules notified under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, an official familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity. “The commission has always emphasised in its 21.8.2020 and all subsequent instructions that the State authorities shall ensure COVID 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,” the EC told the court, according to the official.
The poll body has been facing flak in the recent days for allowing political parties to hold election rallies in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, where supporters turned up in huge numbers. Experts have said the rallies and roadshows, which saw massive participation, added to the surge of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as the country battles the worrisome second wave of the pandemic.