On Friday (April 30th, 2021), the Calcutta High Court expressed hope that political Parties, their Candidates and the Supporters would follow the COVID-19 protocols on May 2, 2021, the day for counting votes in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic situation.
Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee presided over a public interest litigation filed regarding the adherence to the COVID-19 protocols during the counting of votes and declaration of the results of the West Bengal Assembly Election, 2021.
In his appearance before the Court, the Counsel for the Election Commission of India referred to the comprehensive guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India on April 28th, 2021.
He stated that the guidelines must be followed at the location where the votes will be counted. Furthermore, the guidelines forbid victory procession following the announcement of results.
However, the petitioners counsel argued that in order to celebrate the victory of a particular party's candidate in an area, supporters may congregate in and around the party office, potentially violating COVID protocols.
In response, the State Advocate General Kishore Duttareferred to an order issued on April 29,2021 by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government Of India, outlining the procedures to be followed for COVID-19 management, which are applicable throughout the country regardless of whether an election is held or not.
It was argued that the guidelines specified in the said order prohibited social/political/sports/entertainment/academic/cultural/religious/festival-related and other gathering and congregations.
In light of these submissions, the Court stated,
"We hope and expect that the aforesaid guidelines are followed and enforced by the state agencies as well as the Election Commission of India, where ever it has jurisdiction, at all places including in and around the offices of all political parties throughout the State of West Bengal. Keeping in view the COVID-19 pandemic situation, We anticipate that political parties, their candidate's and the supporters will follow the guidelines."
Earlier, the Madras High Court ruled that the Election Commission of India, the State Government, and political parties must work together to ensure that the counting day does not become a "Super- Spreader" event for the COVID -19 Pandemic. A division Bench comprised of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthly was investigating the steps taken by the Election Commission and the State Government to ensure COVID appropriate behaviour on the day of voting, May 2.
The Madras High Court slammed the Election commission of Indiafor allowing political rallies during COVID-19 Pandemic.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, who was visibly upset, told the Election commission's Counsel, "Your Institution is solely responsible for the second wave of COVID-19".Chief Justice went so far as to say, "Your officers should probably be booked on murder charges".
Similarly, the Telangana High Court chastised the State Election commission on Thursday (April 29, 2021) for allowing Campaigning and elections to take place in the midst of the chaos caused by the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
"Is it necessary to hold elections at this time, when COVID -19 is wreaking havoc? Do people's lives or elections matter?", it questioned.