Home > News > Didn’t lower guard, Covid norms followed: EC officials | India News

Didn’t lower guard, Covid norms followed: EC officials | India News

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NEW DELHI: Election Commission officials on Monday said the poll panel has been ahead of the Covid curve while planning and conducting polls in five states and a Union Territory, having retained the strict protocols issued for Bihar elections despite the decline in daily cases in January-February 2021.
The EC officials said it has placed progressive restrictions on campaigning in West Bengal even before disaster management authorities at the national or state level started to impose lockdown curbs in view of the surge in cases.
Sources told TOI on Monday that the EC had received persuasive suggestions to do away with the 1,000 voters per-polling station limit in view of the decline in active cases in January-February 2021, and restore it to original 1,500.
The fall in new daily Covid spike then was accompanied by the vaccination drive picking up pace and signs of economic revival, apparent in GST collection in February 2021 crossing Rs 1.1 lakh crore. “Despite overall improvement in Covid situation, general mood of overall revival and no input available on likelihood of a second wave, Commission decided not to lower its guard. All protocols of Covid were enforced in the poll-going states on the same template as Bihar. Elections to four states, including Tamil Nadu, were over on April 6 before the unprecedented rise of Covid,” an EC official said on the condition of anonymity.
Thereafter, for the remaining five phases of polling in West Bengal, the EC opted for a dynamic model, assessing the changing Covid situation and accordingly issuing orders on April 9, 16, 21 and 22, even invoking its plenary powers under Article 324 to progressively impose restrictions on campaign and instruct poll officials to take action under the Disaster Management Act and IPC against political parties/candidates flouting Covid protocols.
On April 9, the EC reiterated its guidelines on Covidsafe campaign in view of laxity in adherence by parties and candidates and warned that in cases of breach, it would not hesitate in banning public meetings of the defaulting candidates and star campaigners. On April 16, the EC went a step further to ban rallies, public meetings etc between 7 pm and 10 am and extend ‘silence period’ to 72 hours for the last three phases.
Finally, on April 22, EC banned bike rallies, roadshows etc and capped the attendance at public meetings at 500. As many as 307 rallies were cancelled until April 24, 111 show causes issued to various defaulting parties and 75 FIRs lodged under D M Act and IPC.
“In hindsight, even if there was a procedural /judgemental delay of a few days in banning rallies/roadshows, suggesting that ECI officials be criminally liable for deaths is going a bit too far,” said an officer. It is EC’s constitutional mandate to complete polls before the expiry of term of a state assembly. Had the polls been delayed, President’s rule in the states concerned would have become necessary.

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