Allahabad high court requests EC to bar rallies, defer polls over Omicron

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Omicron threat: The Allahabad high court judge said the government and Election Commission (EC) should prohibit public meetings, and if possible, consider deferring the elections expected to be held in February, by a month or two.

Omicron threat: The Allahabad high court judge’s request to the Election Commission comes just a day after chief election commissioner Sushil Chandra stressed that the commission is ready to hold elections in Goa and elsewhere despite the looming threat of another wave of the coronavirus disease pandemic (Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)

PRAYAGRAJ: The Allahabad high court on Thursday requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Election Commission (EC) to ban political rallies and if possible, even consider deferring assembly elections by one or two months in view of the rising cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“The state elections are near and political parties are organising rallies in which people in large numbers are gathering and it is not possible to follow Covid protocol in such rallies. If not stopped, results will be worse than the second wave,” a single bench of Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav said.

The judge requested EC to direct political parties to campaign through Doordarshan and the print media instead of organising rallies, and if possible, the elections expected to be held in February next year could be postponed by a couple of months because only if there is life, then the election rallies and meetings can take place, and the right to life has also been given under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Justice Yadav next turned to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He praised PM Modi for the campaign to provide free Covid-19 vaccines to people and requested that strong measures be taken to stop rallies and gatherings, and even consider deferring the elections because ‘jaan hai to jahan hai” (If there is life, there is everything).

The judge’s request to the Centre and the Election Commission is part of an order granting bail to a man arrested under the UP Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act.

The court pointed to a large number of advocates in the court standing close to each other and flagged the situation for the high court’s registrar general to ensure steps to prevent violation of social distancing norms. “Omicron cases are increasing and there are chances of a third wave also. Therefore, the registrar general of the high court must frame guidelines to face this challenge,” the bench said.

In this context, Justice Yadav, who delivered this order in Hindi, noted the situation outside the courtroom in context of elections and recalled how the Bengal state elections and UP panchayat elections contributed to the spread of Covid-19 infections.

The EC did come in for criticism over the conduct of assembly elections in West Bengal — Covid protocols were not followed by all parties involved for much of the campaign — which coincided with the second wave of the pandemic. The Madras High Court even observed that the commission needs to be booked for attempt to murder for failing to react to the changing situation and pressing ahead with the elections.

Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra told reporters on Wednesday that it is ready to hold the elections in Goa (and by extension, the other states going to polls around the same time), despite the looming threat of another wave of the coronavirus disease pandemic. He insisted that local election officials have been empowered to ensure strict adherence to Covid protocols during campaigning.

Agency

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