A Chief Justice led division bench of the Kerala High Court has clarified that the directives issued by the Centre and the State Governments restricting social gatherings in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, are equally applicable to political parties and associations.
Therefore, it held that the political parties should not hold dharna, processions, demonstrations, etc. as such gatherings are also likely to be infected with the disease.
The direction has come in a writ petition seeking de-recognition of certain political parties in the state of Kerala, for violating the lockdown restrictions and conducting dharna, processions, demonstrations, etc., thus increasing the risk of more positive Covid cases.
"Reading of the directives issued by the Central as well as the State Governments make it clear that the guidelines are intended to be strictly adhered to by all the citizens, political parties and associations, the violation of which is punishable," the bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly held.
The bench further held that the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in In Re: Guidelinesfor Court Functioning Through Video Conferencing During COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as in Kodungallur Film Society& Anr. v. Union of India & Ors., are "binding" on all political parties.
In the former case, the Top Court has had stressed upon the need for "physical distancing" while setting out modalities for video conferencing in all courts.
In the latter case, the Court had set out the pre-requisites and permissions required for holding protests, demonstrations, to address the issue of mob violence.
"In the absence of any law on the subject, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has also issued guidelines under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. The decisions reported in 2020 SCC Online SC 355 and in (2018) 10 SCC 713 are binding on all, including political parties and associations," the bench said.
Holding thus the court asked the Addl. Advocate General to get instructions as to the action taken against those persons, who have violated the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and the Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020.
The bench however refrained from making any direction for "de-recognition" of political parties as it observed that there is no legislation/ provision issued by the Election Commission of India or the Central Government permitting the same.
Case No.: WP (C) No. 14141/2020
Quorum: Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Caly
Appearance: Advocate Dr. KP Pradeep (for Petitioner); AGA Ranjith Thampan (for State)
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