If COVID protocols aren’t in place, will not allow counting: Madras HC to EC

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee said that election commission officials should be booked for murder and slammed the institution for allowing political rallies amid a deadly second wave of COVID-19

The Madras High Court told the Chief Election Officer in Tamil Nadu to communicate with the Health Secretary and draft a COVID-19 protocol for the vote counting day and submit the same on April 30.

The Madras High Court (HC) has warned the Election Commission (EC) that it will stop counting of votes to five state assemblies on May 2, if the top polling body failed to put in place a proper plan to ensure COVID-19 protocol is followed.

The HC on Monday (April 26) said the Election Commission officials should be booked for murder and slammed the institution for allowing political rallies amid a deadly second wave of COVID-19.

“Your institution is singularly responsible for the second wave of Covid-19. Election Commission officers should be booked on murder charges probably,” the HC observed.

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The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy was hearing a petition raising concerns over facilities to ensure COVID-19 protocol during vote counting at the Karur constituency in Tamil Nadu.

The Madras HC went on to the extent of saying it will stop counting on May 2 if the Election Commission does not put in place a proper plan to ensure that the COVID-19 protocol is followed.

Also read: West Bengal likely to see spurt in COVID cases by end of polls, warn health experts

The court observed: “…the significance of adhering to such protocol may have been lost on the Election Commission going by the puerile silence on the part of the Commission as campaigns and rallies were conducted without distancing norms being maintained and in wanton disregard of the other items of the protocol.”

“Public health is of paramount importance and it is distressing that constitutional authorities have to be reminded in such regard. It is only when a citizen survives that he’ll be able to enjoy the rights that a democratic republic guarantees,” said Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee.

The standing counsel for the Election Commission, Advocate Niranjan Rajagopalan, submitted that measures are being put in place to ensure COVID-19 safety norms are maintained during counting of votes.

The Chief Justice orally remarked, “Were you on another planet when the election rallies were held?”

Also read: COVID ‘mis’information: Centre asks social media to remove 100+ posts

After listening to COVID precautions being taken by the Election Commission at the Karur counting booth, the Court said: “Similar appropriate measures have to be adopted at every counting center. Regular sanitisation, maintaining proper hygienic conditions, mandatory wearing of masks and adherence to social distancing norms should continue.”

The Madras High Court then told the Chief Election Officer in Tamil Nadu to communicate with the Health Secretary and draft a COVID-19 protocol for the counting day and submit the same on April 30, when the court will hear the case next.

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