Chennai: Blaming the Election Commission of India for the spread of COVID-19 second wave in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, which went to the polls on April 6, the Madras High Court on Monday warned that it would consider postponing the counting of votes scheduled for May 2.
A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy wondered if the ECI officials were in some other planet when political parties had undertaken massive Assembly election rallies ignoring COVID-19 safety protocol despite judicial orders.
“You have been the most irresponsible institution in the last few months. You are the only institution singularly responsible for the situation we are facing today,” the Chief Justice remarked in open court.
The judges said that public health was of paramount importance but it was distressing to note that constitutional authorities had to be reminded of it. Only when a citizen survives, would he/she be able to enjoy the rights that a democratic republic guarantees to him/her, the court said. “This situation now is of survival and protection and everything comes next,” the judges said.
Expressing displeasure over the ECI having turned a blind eye to the need to protect the public health, the Chief Justice wondered how the poll body permitted political parties to undertake massive rallies with the participants not wearing face masks or adhering to physical distancing norms.
The court warned the ECI that it would not hesitate to stall the counting of votes scheduled for May 2, and ordering postponement of counting to June or July, if a blueprint on the maintenance of COVID-protocol at the counting centres was not produced before the court by April 30.
The bench was hearing a writ petition filed by Transport Minister and AIADMK leader M R Vijayabhaskar, who contested from the Karur seat, seeking a direction to the poll body to adopt stringent measures to ensure fair counting of votes in his constituency.