Madras HC refuses interim relief on ECI’s concerns over media coverage; plea

The Madras HC on Friday refused to grant interim relief on the ECI’s request for directing the media to confine its reporting to the court’s orders or judgments. A division bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy was hearing the suo moto case on COVID-19 issues pertaining to the COVID-19 situation in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Earlier on Monday, the HC described the poll body as an “irresponsible institution” which should face murder charges for its failure to ensure compliance with COVID-19 norms in election rallies purportedly leading to a spike in cases. 

In the plea, TN Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo claimed that the publication of the HC’s oral comments had caused ‘grave prejudice’ to the poll body and went on to state that a police complaint had been registered against the Deputy Election Commissioner alleging murder. During the hearing, the ECI counsel Rakesh Dwivedi apprised the court of various measures taken to ensure that the COVID-19 safety norms are followed during the counting of votes on May 2. Meanwhile, Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan also mentioned steps taken by the Centre to contain COVID-19 spread. 

However, the HC noted in its order, “Two aspects cannot be missed. First, is the Union’s endeavour to indicate that surge in (COVID) numbers may be unexpected and prefatory measures have been taken for quite some time. Second aspect is the Election commission’s concern about sensationalism. The Post-Mortem on either count may have to wait particularly in light of immediate measures that may be put in place.” The matter was adjourned to May 5.

Here are the ECI’s measures for counting day: 

  • The ECI has made negative RT-PCR test reports or complete vaccination reports mandatory for candidates and their agents to enter counting centres. 
  • The counting halls should be sufficiently big, should have proper ventilation, windows, exhaust fans and should be sanitized before, during and after counting. 
  • Sealed outer boxes of EVM/VVPAT shall also be sanitized.
  • Thermal scanning of all persons should be carried out at the entry of counting halls/premises 
  • Sanitizers, soap and water shall be made available and every person entering should be made to sanitize hands
  • No one having any symptoms of COVID-19 like fever, cold should be allowed to enter the counting hall
  • Social distancing should be maintained inside the counting halls, seating arrangements of counting personnel should be made keeping in mind social distancing.
  • There shall be a sufficient number of PPE kits for counting personnel. Besides this, masks, sanitizers, face shields and gloves should also be provided.
  • There shall be proper arrangements for disposal of masks, face shield, PPE kit and other COVID-related wastage. 
  • There will be no victory procession after the counting, and not more than two people will be allowed to accompany the winning candidate to receive the certificate of election from the Returning Officer. 

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Read More:Madras HC refuses interim relief on ECI’s concerns over media coverage; plea