A plea has been filed before the Kerala High Court regarding public protests and gatherings organized by political parties during the times of COVID-19 and violating the norms regarding it.
The petitioner contended, “The political parties and its associated organizations in Kerala are conducting huge public protests and gatherings throughout the state forgetting the regulatory guidelines. And this is a serious lapse and such incidents are continued, the community spreading cannot be contained and the outcome of such negligence will be grave and irreparable. The petitioner John Numpeli Junior has alleged that for administration and control there are many laws that exist. It is due to the indiscipline act of the public and irresponsible attitude of the political parties the situations are more aggravated.
Petitioner through Advocate K P Pradeep stated “However, the political parties, either from the ruling side or from the opposition side are taking irresponsible attitude towards the compliance of regulations and they are regularly calling for largely gathered public protests, citing various reasons.” The political parties are conducting all gatherings based on their rights under the constitution, but these rights are not absolute. The Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 authorizes registration to the political parties along with prescribed qualifications. Section 126 of the above act gives the power to restrict meetings during election process. So the settled law says political parties are not enjoying absolute freedom for the political campaign as said by the petitioner. The petitioner further reiterated instances of protests alleging involvement of the officers of the government in gold smuggling scam, petrol prices hike and recent instance of Poonthura where a large gathering of local people detained health professionals who were in the fieldwork of COVID-19 prevention and detection test, are clear examples of political involvement. The petitioner added that COVID has already been declared as National Disaster and it qualifies under the definition of Disaster Management Act, 2005. The petitioner observed that “The Central Government, as well as the State Government, enjoys wide powers to initiate and manage mitigation and prevention activities, invoking the powers under Chapter V of the Act, 2005” The petitioner stated “Thus the statutory scheme is clear, unambiguous and indisputable that during the days of a disaster like, pandemic or epidemic, the Government authorities have larger powers, subject to the Constitutional limitations, and can issue necessary directions to the persons, collective groups of such persons, which includes political parties and other associated organizations of political parties. However, the state machineries have failed to contain larger political gatherings, in the name of political protests, whatever be the reasons and genuineness of such political gathering.” As per the Management Act under Section 72 possess an overriding effect over other schemes in India. The petitioner emphasized on right to health and lives in a healthy environment to which he said: “Here the Union Government and the State Government has failed to contain the political gatherings in large scale, obviously they are reluctant due to their own political reasons but giving less concern to the public health and public order.” The petitioner further said much irresponsible behavior by the political parties and machineries of the state and said “The irresponsible attitudes of the respondent political parties and that of the political coalitions and that of their associated organizations, lead to an alarming situation in the society that the existing preventive mechanism is improper to contain the pandemic situation, due to the larger public gatherings in the name of politically motivated group protests. The petitioner, therefore, prays for the following:
- Large public gatherings in the name of protests are illegal during the times of pandemic is unconstitutional and illegal, so direst Respondent No. 4 to regularise such gatherings during the times of pandemic.
- To issue strict direction against Respondent No. 1 and 3 who are acting against it and violating COVID 19 norms,
- To desist any political gatherings or social activities with large public and not violating the norms set by the authorities for COVID-19.