The Karnataka High Court on Friday directed the state government to strictly enforce the standard operating procedures banning rallies and other political events in view of a surge in coronavirus cases, reported Live Law.

A bench of Justices Ritu Raj Awasthi and Suraj Govindaraj was hearing a plea seeking direction to state authorities to not allow any political events and stop the Congress from continuing with its Mekedatu rally. The petitioner, Nagendra Prasad AV, had said that people who come for the rally will go return to their districts and spread the coronavirus, reported Bar and Bench.

The bench had pulled up the state Congress on Wednesday for organising its 10-day rally, and asked it to inform the court if it had taken permission for the event. The judges had also asked the state government to submit how the permission to hold the rally had been granted.

The Congress suspended the rally on Thursday after five of its leaders tested positive for coronavirus.

On Friday, Senior Advocate Uday Holla, appearing for the Congress, said that the party has taken into account the court’s observations and suspended the rally. However, he claimed that state government has banned only the Mekedatu rally while other political parties were allowed to organise events.

State’s counsel Additional Advocate General R Subramanya submitted: “Previously [January 4] a general notification has been issued and they fall under that category. All rallies, dharna and protests are prohibited.”

The High Court took note of the submissions made by the state government and the Congress and disposed of the plea.

“Before parting we direct the state government to strictly execute the SOP issued on January 4 in all districts and no rallies, dharnas or any other political gathering shall be permitted in the entire state, during the pandemic,” it said. “So long as the SOP issued by the state government is operational.”

Mekedatu rally

The Congress had started its 10-day rally on January 9, demanding implementation of the Mekedatu project across Cauvery river.

The project entails building a reservoir in a deep gorge at the confluence of the river Cauvery with its tributary Arkavathi in the Ramanagara district. The project aims to provide drinking water to Bengaluru and nearby areas and also to generate 400 megawatts of power. It is estimated to cost about Rs 9,000 crore.

Tamil Nadu has opposed the project, claiming that it will impede the free flow of water from the Cauvery into the state.

Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge and party veteran Veerappa Moily are among the leaders who had participated in the rally and tested positive.

Before the Congress decided to call off the rally on Thursday, at least three first information reports were filed against its leaders for allegedly violating Covid-19 norms.

There has been an uptick in coronavirus cases in Karnataka, particularly in Bengaluru.

On Thursday, Karnataka had reported 25,005 new Covid-19 cases, pushing the infections tally in the state to 31,24,524. The toll climbed by eight to 38,397. The positivity rate for the day stood at 12.39%.

Of the 25,005 new cases, 18,374 were reported from state capital Bengaluru alone.