File photo: Madras High Court. (PTI)
File photo: Madras High Court. (PTI)

Madras HC on EC’s plea to restrain media from reporting oral observations

Appearing for the EC, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi raised the wide news coverage on the court’s oral statements made on April 26.
By Divya Chandrababu, Chennai
UPDATED ON APR 30, 2021 08:02 PM IST

The Madras High Court on Friday didn’t entertain the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) request to restrain the media from reporting oral observations made by judges in court.

The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the observations while hearing the suo moto case on the preparedness for the second wave of Covid-19 in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

Appearing for the EC, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi informed the court of the measures taken to ensure that Covid-19 protocols are followed on counting day on May 2. In addition, he raised the wide news coverage on the court’s oral statements made on April 26 that the EC was singularly responsible for the second wave, for not taking action against political rallies that didn’t follow Covid-19 norms and stating that its officials should probably be booked for murder.

Dwivedi sought the court to direct media houses to confine their reports to observations recorded in orders or judgments and to refrain from reporting on oral observations made during court proceedings.

In its order later that day, the court had toned down its criticism against the election body and this statement didn’t make it. It pertained to a case filed by Tamil Nadu transport minister MR Vijayabhaskar seeking safe and fair counting on May 2 since his constituency, Karur, has 77 candidates. On Friday, the court disposed of this petition in view of the measures taken by the EC and continued hearing the suo moto case.

In an affidavit, the EC had contended that this statement has caused prejudice to the EC, adding and based on the statements, police complaints were being filed against the election body. To this, the bench said, “Courts are there and such frivolous matters will be dealt with.”

On the matter of preparedness to deal with the surge in Covid-19 cases, the court suggested the state conducts extensive drives for vaccinations, put up information on the internet and other mediums so that people don’t panic while seeking drugs, beds and oxygen. Political parties, media were directed to follow pandemic norms and not burst crackers as part of their victory celebrations.

The matter has been adjourned to May 5.

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