During the hearing of the suo moto case where Madras High Court is taking stock of the Covid situation in the state, the Election Commission, upset about the remarks of the bench being “sensationalised” by the media, pleaded for directions. The counsel for EC submitted that it was tasked with a difficult job of conducting elections, and the media should be instructed not to sensationalise. This was with regards to the bench’s comment that EC officers should probably be booked for murder for allowing election rallies amid the deadly pandemic and for failing to ensure Covid-19 protocol. This statement made its way to the headlines of several news media and this upset the EC a great deal.
However, the court was in no mood to deal with this issue considering other issues that needed the court’s attention. “The post-mortem on either count may have to wait, particularly in the light of the immediate measures that may be put in place,” the court said referring to EC’s appeal and Centre’s claim of preparedness.
The court further said that it did not consider itself an expert and its object was to ensure that authorities devote their complete attention to the measures put in place. The court reiterated that its immediate concern was what will transpire on May 2, the vote counting day. The court said that it hoped that political parties, media personnel and citizens at large adhere to the instructions and the guidelines, follow the norms and co-operate with the authorities in the greater public interest.
Addressing political parties, the court said, “The role of the political parties cannot be overemphasised. The leaders of political parties should ensure that the rank and file maintain a degree of discipline and exercise extreme restraint whether in celebration or otherwise. The leaders of political parties should keep the supporters in check, ensure that there is no bursting of crackers or taking out of rallies, particularly on the day of counting and till such time that the present grim situation continues. The leaders of political parties are requested to take a pro-active stand in such regard and lead by example.”
Meanwhile, the court said it hoped that in respect of supply of vaccines and drugs, the Centre is able to give a clear picture on allocation of drugs and vaccine to the state. The bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said this will allow the state to plan out its course of action.
The Centre informed the court that the surge in numbers was unexpected and that preparatory measures had been taken for quite some time. Assistant Solicitor General R Shankaranarayan submitted that the curve was flattening in December, and in February, a surge in cases in Maharashtra and Kerala was noticed, but the Centre had taken all necessary steps.
The court also urged the government to upload essential information relating to availability of beds, oxygen and other aspects so that people do not panic.
The bench said it will be available during the first fortnight of the summer vacation and may assemble upon prior notice to the parties. The court will be hearing the matter again on May 5.
The complete order may be read here: