The Petitioners filed the instant Petition about their polling concerns during Covid. They brought the Courts’ attention to various newspaper reports and photographs. It demonstrated people engaged in campaigning, including the candidates without maintaining social distancing or wearing masks. Furthermore, the Court’s attention was brought on a letter of April 9, 2021, by the Secretary of Election Commission of India addressed to the President mentioning the guidelines to be followed while conducting General Elections.
The Court also received a Press Note issued by the Chief Election Officer about the election’s arrangement.
Learned Counsel for the Petitioner contended that the COVID-19 guidelines got flouted by people engaged in election polls, as already known by the Election Commission. Thus, he pleaded that all the necessary steps for strict enforcement of the COVID-19 guidelines must be taken.
While the Election Commission ensured that the people engaged in election campaigning must follow the COVID guidelines. Yet, the Court may further direct if deemed necessary.
The Bench of Hon’ble Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee ruled that the Election Commission and Chief Electoral Officer laid down guidelines to ensure public health & safety. The Court also ordered stringent measures. The persons failing or neglect or refuse to obey the COVID protocols must suffer. It directed to take expeditious actions against the wrongdoers. The Court empowered the District Magistrates, and the CEO, to resort to sec. 144 of Cr.P.C. to adopt COVID guidelines.
Further, the Court issued principles of wearing masks at all gatherings and the use of sanitisers. Also, Administration’s responsibility to avoid large congregations, social distancing and public awareness. Moreover, all the political parties and candidates got orders to maintain the social norms.
The Hon’ble Court listed the matter for hearing on 19th April. The Chief Electoral Officer got directions to file a report on COVID-19 protocols.
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