The Election Commission has moved the Supreme Court against Madras High Court’s oral observations which stated that EC is “singularly responsible” for the COVID-19 situation in India and that it should probably be put on “murder charges” for failing to ensure compliance of COVID-19 protocol during election rallies.
The instant appeal is in response to Madras HC’s refusal to entertain the Election Commission’s plea against its oral remarks.
In the appeal, prayer has also been made seeking directions to media houses to refrain from reporting on oral observations made during court proceedings and confine their reports to observations recorded in orders or judgments.
The matter will be heard on 3rd May by the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah of the Supreme Court.
The high court’s remarks were “uncalled for, blatantly disparaging and derogatory”, as per the appeal.
The instant plea arose out of a petition filed on April 6 in the Madras HC by Tamil Nadu’s Transport Minister, M R Vijayabaskar from AIADMK, regarding taking effecting steps and ensuing proper arrangements to enforce COVID protocols during the vote counting at Karur constituency.
The Madras HC’s Division Bench had made a stinging observation while hearing the plea on 26th April, where Justice Sanjib Banerjee orally remarked,
“You are the only institution that is responsible for the situation today. No action against political parties taking rallies despite every order of the Court. Your election commission should be put up on murder charges probably!”
Subsequent to these remarks, the Election Commission had approached the Madras HC against the oral observation along with a plea to issue directions to media houses to refrain from sensationalizing news and reporting on oral observations made by the Court. The court refused to entertain this plea in its 30th April order. The Election Commission has now appealed against this order.
Submissions by the Election Commission
Submissions were made by the Commission that, “Media should be instructed not to sensationalize, the EC has a difficult job…”
The Election Commission’s Counsel also iterated that, “FIRs were being lodged against its officials for murder following the Court’s widely reported remark that the Election Commission is singularly responsible for the COVID-19 situation in India and that it should probably be put on murder charges for failing to ensure adherence to safety norms. Your Lordship’s observation was only to spur us to action, not accusing us of committing a crime. We need an observation…”
In this regard, the Chief Justice of Madras HC had stated that “Courts will take care of frivolous complaints.
The Court while delivering the order, had also stated, “Two aspects cannot be missed – the Union’s endeavour to indicate that the surge in numbers may have been unexpected and that preparatory measures had been taken for quite some time. The second aspect is the EC’s concern at sensationalism. The post mortem on either counts may have to wait particularly in the light of the immediate measures that have to be put in place.”