Regretting that Covid safety norms were being flouted in West Bengal during campaigning, the Election Commission of India banned road shows and vehicle rallies in the state with immediate effect and said no public meeting having more than 500 people would be allowed.
The order said the commission has noted “with anguish” that many political parties and candidates are still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms during the public gatherings. The orders will come into force from 7 pm on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Calcutta High Court had come down heavily on the Election Commission for not taking proper action over not following of Covid-19 guidelines on the voting day and during campaigning time.
Hearing three public interest litigations (PILs) seeking enforcement of Covid protocol during the elections, a division bench presided by Chief Justice T B N Radhakrishnan said issuance of circulars and holding meetings on Covid safety were not enough and sought an affidavit by Friday on steps taken to enforce the norms.
The court observed that ECI has full power, but it failed to do this. The PILs expressed concern that people participating in the ongoing election campaigns were not adhering to Covid norms which may result in a serious spike in Covid-19 cases in Bengal. But the EC totally failed to implement the Covid-19 guidelines, the court observed.