The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday held that the Election Commission, higher courts and the government failed to “fathom the disastrous consequences” of holding Assembly elections and the Uttar Pradesh panchayat polls amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Bar and Bench reported.
This was the second instance of a High Court pulling up the poll body for allowing elections to be held even as cases of coronavirus continued to rise. Last month, the Madras High Court, in an oral observation, had said that the Election Commission was “singularly responsible” for the second wave and should be booked on charges of murder. The Election Commission moved the Supreme Court seeking directions to restrain the media from reporting on the remarks. However, the Supreme Court refused to pass any such order.
On Tuesday, Allahabad High Court’s single-judge bench of Justice Siddharth made the observation while granting anticipatory bail to a person who had moved the plea citing that he ran the risk of being infected, if arrested. The court noted that a number of First Information Reports have been lodged in villages of Uttar Pradesh due to violation of coronavirus protocols.
“Keeping in view the overall situation of the villages after the Panchayat elections large number of accused persons may be infected and their infection may not have been detected,” the court said. It added that the state government was already struggling to control the spread of the virus in urban areas and it would be “very difficult” to conduct the test, detect and treat the village population.
Taking these observations into consideration, the court held that the apprehension of the accused of being infected by the virus before and after his arrest, and subsequently spreading the infection, was a valid one. The accused, Pratik Jain, was given anticipatory bail till January 3, 2022.
“Only when the accused would be protected from apprehension of death, the apprehension of his arrest would arise,” the Allahabad High Court noted, according to The Indian Express. “Article 21…provides for protection of life and personal liberty of every citizen.”
The court also mentioned the case of journalist Siddique Kappan who was granted permission to be shifted from Mathura Jail to a government hospital in Delhi for treatment, after testing positive for coronavirus.
Allahabad HC suggests higher compensation for polling officers
In a separate case, the Allahabad High Court asked the Uttar Pradesh government to reconsider the compensation announced for polling officers who died on duty during the panchayat elections due to coronavirus, The Indian Express reported. The government had announced a compensation of Rs 30 lakh to the families of each polling officer, but the court said that it should be around Rs 1 crore.
During the proceedings of a suo motu petition on the pandemic situation in the state, the court observed that the amount of compensation is “very less” considering the fact that the deceased persons had not volunteered to render his/ her services during election, Bar and Bench reported.
On April 29, Uttar Pradesh Prathmik Shiksha Sangh, a teachers’ body came up with a list of 706 teachers and shiksha mitras (para-teachers) who died on election duty. The list was later tweeted by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
In another order, the court directed the Uttar Pradesh government to form a three-member Pandemic Public Grievance Committee in every district of the state to address complaints of citizens regarding the pandemic situation. The court said that the committees should be set up within 48 hours, Bar and Bench reported.
The court also ordered the state government and Centre to place a roadmap of how they propose to inoculate physically challenged people who cannot be brought to vaccination centres and “illiterate labours and other villagers” in the age group of 18-45 who will not be able to register themselves for the coronavirus vaccine online.