The Election Commission today requested the Madras High Court to restrain the media from reporting on oral observations, days after the court’s sharp remarks on “murder charges” on officials of the election body for not stopping political rallies.
It also argued that there was “nothing to suggest” that campaigning was a significant factor in driving any Covid spike in states that were voted versus those that didn’t.
In its petition, the Election Commission said it was aggrieved with media reports of the Madras High Court’s oral observations that it is “singularly responsible for the situation prevalent today” and that the Election Commission should face murder charges.
“These reports have tarnished the image of the Election Commission of India as an independent constitutional agency that is entrusted with the constitutional responsibility of conducting elections,” said the poll body.
It also said a police complaint had been filed against the Deputy Election Commissioner accusing him of murder in West Bengal after the media reported on the observations.
On Monday, during arguments, the Madras High Court had commented: “Your institution is singularly responsible for the second wave of COVID-19. Your officers should be booked on murder charges probably…Were you on another planet when the election rallies were held?”
The stinging rebuke was not part of the court’s order later that day, which said: “At no cost can counting become a catalyst for a further surge.”
The Election Commission argued today: “No one must be permitted to report on the proceedings of this court that are not borne out by the record, especially when the detailed order is made available. There was no occasion for this court to make such observations since the campaigning in Tamil Nadu ended back in April 4.”
It also said the Calcutta and Kerala High Courts have “expressed satisfaction” with the Covid-related measures taken by the Election Commission for counting on Sunday. The number of Covid cases was relatively low when elections were announced in Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on February 26, the commission said.
The comparison of data between the states that voted and those that didn’t during the campaign period between March 20 and April 4 “does not indicate that the election campaigns were a significant factor, much less than what the court termed as a singular factor”, the Election Commission told the court.
Also, it said no elections were held in states with the highest number of cases – Maharashtra Karnataka Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
“It therefore cannot be said that the Election Commission is ‘singularly responsible for the second wave of Covid-19’ nor the officers of the Election Commission can be said to be any manner culpable for ‘murder’,” the Election Commission’s petition said.