EC frowns on political parties flouting Covid instructions; reminds them of penal action for violations

New Delhi: With political rallies in Bihar drawing massive crowds, leaders canvassing without masks and social distancing norms being flouted, the Election Commission of India (ECI) said penal provisions will be invoked against candidates and organisers for violation of Covid protocol and disregard to the EC’s instructions.

Violations of social distancing norms have been observed right from Tejaswi Yadav’s Paliganj rally to CM Nitish Kumar’s Jehanabad election meeting and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath’s Kaimur rally.

“Instances of such public meetings have come to notice of the Commission, where large crowds have assembled in violation of social distancing norms and political leaders/campaigners are addressing the gathering without wearing masks in disregard to the guidelines/instructions issued by Election Commission. By doing so, the political parties and candidates are not only flouting the guidelines of the Commission with impunity, but exposing themselves and the public attending the rallies/meetings to the danger of infection during the pandemic,” the ECI said in an advisory to all political parties on Wednesday.

Taking a “serious view of the laxity on the part of political parties and candidates in terms of maintaining crowd discipline”, the ECI sought to remind political parties of its August 21 guidelines.

The guidelines stated that non-compliance of Covid-19 related instructions will attract actions as per provisions of Sections 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 besides invocation of the Section 188 of IPC and other legal provisions, as also specified in Order No.40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 29th July, 2020 of Ministry of Home Affairs.

The poll panel said the Chief Electoral Officers and district machinery would be expected by the Commission to invoke appropriate penal provisions for such violations. It will issue separate instructions for strict compliance of guidelines to Chief Electoral Officers and state governments of poll-going states.

The ECI had issued an advisory to all political parties on October 9 saying observance of preventive measures including wearing mask, use of sanitisers, observance of social distancing is a duty cast upon all the stakeholders.

“As representatives of the public, this responsibility rests with political parties to ensure that they not only cooperate with the district machinery in following the norms of public health safety as prescribed, but also instil a sense of discipline for civic behaviour in their cadre while doing ground management during campaign times. It is requested that you may like to issue advisory to all your field representatives to demonstrate utmost vigil and care to abide by all the extant instructions in larger interest of public health and avoid any penal action for breaching the provisions,” the ECI had said.

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