Action against political leaders for breaching COVID-19 norms
The petition also asked for orders to ensure mandatory home quarantine of persons who campaigned in West Bengal in the last week.
New Delhi: On Tuesday (April 27th), a petition was filed in the Delhi High Court asking the Election Commission (EC) to take action against "star campaigners" and leaders of all political parties for allegedly breaching COVID-19 norms during the West Bengal assembly elections. In the petition, they sought for imposing penalties and filing FIRs against them for violating norms.
Vikram Singh, the former DGP of Uttar Pradesh and chairman of the think tank Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC), has also asked the Election Commission and the Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) to "ensure compulsory home quarantine of persons who campaigned in West Bengal in the last one week."
During rallies, public meetings, and roadshows held during the ongoing pandemic, Singh, who was represented by advocate Virag Gupta, alleged that "masking laws were flouted with impunity" by political parties, their leaders, and campaigners.
According to the application filed by advocate Gaurav Pathak, this "unhindered and uncared-for all-out campaigning" has resulted in an increase in coronavirus cases in that province, with the positivity rate increasing from 5% to 24%.
It went on to say that “the lackadaisical action of ECI in implementing its own guidelines and non-cancellation of permission given for roadshows and rallies is evident from the number of campaigners catching COVID".
"The Election Commission had guidelines for the conduct of general elections/bye-elections during COVID-19 published in August 2020, but failed to implement the same," It stated this and demanded that ECI officials be prosecuted, "who failed to enforce their own mandatory COVID guidelines".
"Whatever little action that the commission is now taking is only under huge public pressure and amounts to only lip service," it stated.
The application also alleged that "most of the political leaders who were involved in election campaigning were not seen to be following any rules on home quarantine, even after their contacts were turning out to be COVID positive".
Singh had filed an application earlier this month to require that anyone participating in poll campaigns in various states and union territories wear masks as a general rule. On April 8th, the high court provided notice to the Centre and the EC on the earlier appeal.
Singh's key petition seeks to ban activists and candidates from campaigning in the assembly elections after they consistently disobeyed the poll panel's mandatory guidelines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assembly elections were held in several stages in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Puducherry. The polls will be open until April 29th.
In his petition, Singh claims that despite the Centre's and EC's orders and guidance, "election campaigning is going on in full swing, without any regard to the COVID-19 regulations".
He claims that the general population is subjected to "indirect discrimination" when fines are levied against them for violating COVID-19 norms, but no action is taken against politicians.