29 April 2021 11:00 AM GMT
The Madras High Court on Thursday said that the Election Commission of India, State Government and the political parties should ensure that the counting day does not become a "super-spreader" event for COVID19 pandemic.A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy was examining the steps taken by the Election Commission and the State Government...
The Madras High Court on Thursday said that the Election Commission of India, State Government and the political parties should ensure that the counting day does not become a "super-spreader" event for COVID19 pandemic.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy was examining the steps taken by the Election Commission and the State Government to ensure COVID appropriate behavior on the day of counting of votes, May 2.
Tamil Nadu Advocate General Vijay Narayan told the bench that the Health Secretary and the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) have discussed the issue in the light of the previous observations made by the Court and have laid down COVID-19 protocols to be followed on the counting day. The AG said that elaborate directions have been given for sanitisation of EVMs, disinfecting counting halls, thermal scanning, masks, negative COVID reports and crowd control on the day.
The bench was informed that the Election Commission has banned victory rallies and marches on the counting day.
"Election Commission orders have to be implemented on the ground, there is no point in stating this in words and letters", Chief Justice Banerjee said.
The Chief Justice said that political parties should avoid mass congregations, celebrations & processions on day of counting of votes.
"Whatever we do, political class will not care...On the street, no one gives a second thought...You have to take steps", Chief Justice told the Election Commission and State Government.
"This absolutely essential, so that May 2nd does not become super spreader event", the Chief Justice said. He suggested that the the politicians could confine the celebrations within their homes and exchange congratulatory messages over phone.
Bench asked about protocol for media persons
The bench also asked about the protocol for media persons on the day of counting.
"The presence of media persons make it a crowd. Media must have access to counting at regular stages for information at public. Presence of media is also a check against malpractices. What is the protocol about media?", Chief Justice Banerjee asked.
"You can't have 24 OB vans with 47 reporters and 50 cameramen and 200 technicians before a small counting booth; you need to have a protocol", the CJ added.
The Advocate General told the bench that a protocol for media is also in place. Media persons need to have either an RT-PCR negative result or a certificate of having taken two doses of COVID vaccination to enter the counting booths.
The Chief Justice then asked the AG about the number of media persons allowed at a counting centre.
"If you have 25 news channels, and if each channel sends two persons each and their technicians, that will create a crowd", the CJ said.
The AG replied that he will respond to this aspect tomorrow.
The bench was considering the suo moto PIL taken by it to monitor the issues related to COVID management in the state. T
Earlier, the bench had directed the Election Commission of India to place a blue-print before the Court regarding its plan to enforce COVID protocol on the counting day. The bench had also warned that it will stop the counting process if ECI fails to formulate such a plan.
The bench had made this direction after strongly criticizing the Election Commission for not stopping political rallies during the COVID19.
The bench had gone to the extent of saying that ECI was "singularly responsible for the COVID second wave" and that its officers "should be probably booked for murder charges".