In a special sitting on Saturday, a court holiday, a division bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Hrishikesh Roy allowed the counting of votes for panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh slated on Sunday on the ‘solemn assurances’ of sufficient safeguards against Covid by the State Election Commission (SEC).
“We reject the request for deferring the counting by recording the submissions of SEC that all protocols will be observed in letter and spirit,” the court said. It was hearing a PIL of Jaunpur resident Sachin Yadav to stay the counting, as admitted on Friday. Another writ petition on the board with the same request was from Kanhaiya Lal of Hathras. However, no victory rallies will be allowed after counting and the candidates and their agents will be allowed entry in the centres if they produce an RT-PCR negative certificate or have taken 2 doses, he said.
He said senior IAS officers of rank of principal secretary will be posted in each district to oversee adherence of the Covid protocols while a class 1 officer of the state govt will be assigned to monitor each of the 800 counting centres and he will accountable for the counting centres.
Advocate Shoeb Alam, appearing for the petitioners, submitted the counting centres can turn out to be “beds of infections”. He also drew the Bench’s attention to a body of teachers, which has asked its members, assigned counting duty, not to go to the counting centres due to apprehensions of infection, especially since many teachers on election duty had died.
DYING WITHOUT TEST: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted, “Over 700 teachers have died in UP, including a pregnant lady who was forced to attend poll duty for the Panchayat elections, held 60,000 gram sabhas, without any thought of the catastrophic onslaught of the second wave.”
She said: “Meetings were conducted, campaigning continued and the spread of Covid in UP villages is now unstoppable. People are dying in huge numbers far, far above the deceitful official figures. People are dying in homes across rural UP, and these deaths are not being counted as Covid because people aren’t being tested.”
Teacher dies 7 days before wedding
A school teacher from Jaunpur died of Covid-19, 7 days before her wedding, as per India Today. The deceased teacher, Swati Gupta, caught the virus on duty for the panchayat polls. She was a resident of Mungra Badshahpur in Jaunpur district and was posted in Bulandshahr. Her wedding was scheduled for April 30. She was undergoing training for the panchayat polls in Bulandshahr and reportedly contracted the infection during the training. Reportedly, Swati Gupta wanted to excuse herself from the poll duty.