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West Bengal Polls- "Utilise Govt. Officials/Police Force To Ensure Strict Compliance Of COVID Protocols/Guidelines": Calcutta High Court To Election Authorities

Sparsh Upadhyay
20 April 2021 3:39 PM GMT
West Bengal Polls- Utilise Govt. Officials/Police Force To Ensure Strict Compliance Of COVID Protocols/Guidelines: Calcutta High Court To Election Authorities
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The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday (20th April) asked Chief Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer to utilize such Government officials and police force as may be necessary to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 Protocols & guidelines. The Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee perused a report by the Chief...

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday (20th April) asked Chief Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer to utilize such Government officials and police force as may be necessary to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 Protocols & guidelines.

The Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee perused a report by the Chief Electoral Officer, West Bengal with regard to the measures taken for implementation of the COVID-19 guidelines during polls.

Importantly, as reported by The Federal, the Chief Justice led Bench remarked,

"There have been enough rallies and meetings since the announcement of the poll dates. Now leave it to the people to decide."

During the course of the last hearing in the matter, the Calcutta High Court had 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 the 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 had 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 the 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".

Now, today, the Advocate General submitted before the Court that the Election Commission of India and the Chief Electoral Officer were in control of the situation and it is for them to do the needful.

Further, the Court noted that it was open to the Election Commission of India and the Chief Electoral Officer to take requisite steps as stated in paragraph 43 of the report and also to ensure successful implementation of COVID Protocols by requiring strict compliance of prescribed guidelines and orders by all political parties, electoral candidates and all other concerned with the election process.

Significantly, paragraph 43 of the report (filed by the Chief Electoral Officer, West Bengal) stated,

"I submit that the Commission has made it clear by its Circular dated 09.04.2021 clarifying that in case of breach of strict observance of Covid Protocols during election rallies, meetings, campaigning etc. the Commission will not hesitate in banning public meetings, rallies of the defaulting candidate/star campaigners/political leaders."

Consequently, the Court remarked,

"This obviously means that the Chief Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer will be at liberty to utilize such Government officials and police force as may be necessary to ensure strict compliance with its guidelines in the public domain."

Lastly, posting the matter for further hearing on Thursday (22nd April), the Court said that Advocate General would be making a further submission as to the State's responsibility to meaningfully co-operate with the Chief Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer by putting requisite sensitization methodology in the place where the people converge for various purposes.

Case title – Nitish Debnath v. Election Commission of India & Ors. & Sankar Halder & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.

Click here to download the Order

Read Order


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