Concerned over rising Covid-19 cases in India, the Calcutta High Court on Thursday pulled up the Election Commission (EC) and blamed the poll body for absolving its responsibility in ensuring people’s safety during elections (due to the pandemic).
A bench of Chief Justice Thottathil Bhaskaran Nair Radhakrishnan observed that the poll body is only issuing circulars/notices (on Covid-19 protocols without keeping a track on ground implementation) and passing the buck on to the people.
“They are only issuing guidelines and circulars. They are not monitoring whether the rules/Covid-19 protocols are being followed properly or not. In this way, it is not possible to be free from responsibility by leaving all the responsibilities on the people,” the HC said.
The Division Bench, while highlighting the incompetence of the EC, further observed that in many cases the EC has failed to implement Covid-19 protocols during political rallies/road shows in West Bengal.
“The EC has enough power to implement it during polls to contain the pandemic while conducting elections. The EC has done nothing to stop road shows/rallies in accordance with Covid-19 protocols in this rising pandemic situation. Unfortunately, it has not utilised its power. The EC has forgotten TN Seshan. Let EC function like it did during the time of Seshan,” the HC said.
TN Seshan was appointed the 10th Chief Election Commissioner of India from 1990 to 1996 and he is famous for his electoral reforms. He won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for the government service in 1996. He died on November 10, 2019.
The observation was made by the Calcutta High Court when the sixth phase of voting is underway in West Bengal.
“We are disappointed with the EC. The entire police force is at the EC’s disposal. Despite that the poll body has failed to act. Why has the EC not engaged the RAF (Rapid Action Force) and QRTs (Quick Response Team)? We want the EC to take concrete steps instead of issuing circulars,” the Court observed but it could not pass an order because representations from political parties are not present in the Court.
Recently, the EC has turned down requests made by the TMC to merge the remaining three phases (including Thursday’s sixth phase) of elections due to steep rise in Covid-19 cases in the State.