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"Any Person Found Flouting COVID Protocols Must Be Taken To Task Immediately"; Calcutta HC Directs Strict Implementation Of COVID Guidelines During Election

Radhika Roy
13 April 2021 4:05 PM GMT
Any Person Found Flouting COVID Protocols Must Be Taken To Task Immediately; Calcutta HC Directs Strict Implementation Of COVID Guidelines During Election
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"Any Person Found Flouting COVID Protocols Must Be Taken To Task Immediately"; Calcutta HC Directs District Magistrates And Chief Election Officer, West Bengal, To Ensure Strict Implementation Of COVID Guidelines During Election

Calcutta High Court has issued directions to the District Magistrate of all districts and Chief Election Officer, West Bengal, to ensure that COVID guidelines for conducting elections are implemented in a strict manner in wake of rising COVID-19 cases in the State. Noting that the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India and Chief Electoral Officer, West Bengal, "need...

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Calcutta High Court has issued directions to the District Magistrate of all districts and Chief Election Officer, West Bengal, to ensure that COVID guidelines for conducting elections are implemented in a strict manner in wake of rising COVID-19 cases in the State.


Noting that the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India and Chief Electoral Officer, West Bengal, "need to be implemented in the strictest manner possible", the Court has directed the Administration to ensure the same. Further, the Court has directed that stringent measures must be taken "against persons who fail, neglect or refuse to obey the COVID protocols".

"Callous, irresponsible and nonchalant attitude or behavior of some of the members of the society cannot be permitted to endanger the lives of the other members of the society",
observed the Order while stating that if any person, whether engaged in election campaigning or otherwise, was found flouting COVID protocols, "such a person must be taken to task immediately".

The Court further directed that the District Magistrates of all districts in the State of West Bengal shall ensure that all the guidelines laid down are strictly implemented in their true letter and spirit, and if necessary, with the aid of police authorities. It recorded that the District Magistrates, and the CEO, West Bengal, would be personally responsible for ensuring that COVID guidelines were scrupulously followed by all, even if it means resorting to Section 144 of CrPC in order to "avert a deadly disaster that is staring at our faces in the form of possible galloping rise in COVID-19 cases".

"We are dealing with an extraordinary situation and this calls for extraordinary measures/ It is in public interest that the Administration must ensure that all the COVID protocols are strictly adhered to by all concerned including those engaged in election campaigning activities".

Additionally, the High Court emphasized that i. wearing of masks had to be made mandatory at all gatherings; ii. sanitisers must be available liberally; iii. safe distancing norms must be followed at all gatherings; iv. the Administration shall do its best to ensure that there are no large congregations, and v. public awareness through distribution of pamphlet and miking should be resorted.

The Court concluded the Order by requesting all political parties and candidates with their aides and associates to maintain the norms and realise the gravity of the situation.

A Division of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee was hearing two writ petitions filed by "public spirited citizens expressing their concern that the people participating in the ongoing election campaigns are not adhering to the COVID protocol and this may cause a serious spike in COVID-19 cases in our State".

The Petitioners had brought to the notice of the Court various newspaper reports and photographs to demonstrate that people engaged in campaigning, including the candidates, were not always wearing mask nor maintaining the prescribed social distancing. Further, a letter dated April 9, 2021 was presented to the Court wherein the Secretary Election Commission of India had issued guidelines to the President/General Secretary of recognized National/State political parties.

A Press Note dated February 26, 2021 which deals with arrangements for the polling station, as well as an undated circular issued by the Chief Election Officer, West Bengal, laying down measures that have been taken and are to be taken, were also placed before the Court.

Taking the aforementioned details into account, the Court observed that the ECI and CEO, West Bengal, had indeed laid down guidelines and taken measures to ensure public health safety during the election, keeping in view the resurgence of the pandemic. However, the Administration, i.e. the District Magistrates and the CEO, West Bengal, had to ensure strict implementation of the same.

The matter will now be heard on 19th April. The CEO, West Bengal, has been directed to file a report in the form of an affidavit with regard to the measures taken for implementation of the guidelines.

Click here to download the Order


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