Delhi HC issues notice to Centre, EC on a plea seeking compulsion for Covid-19 guidelines in elections

Delhi High Court directs Election Commission to publish “guidelines for conduct of general elections/bye-elections during COVID-19” published in August 2020.

On Thursday, April 8, Delhi High Court issued notice to Centre and Election Commission, on a plea seeking direction to Election Commission to publish prominently on its website, mobile apps, election material & other platforms, “EC guidelines for conduct of general elections/bye-elections during COVID19” published in Aug 2020, reports ANI.

Plea also seeks direction to Election Commission to create awareness through digital, print and electronic media for compulsory wearing of mask and social distancing during Assembly Elections.

Plea was filed by Vikram Singh, the chairman of Think Tank Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change, and he was former Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh.

The Assembly elections in Kerala, Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are being held in various phases between March 27 and April 29.

As per guidelines published in August 2020, following are the rules and regulations to be followed by Political parties while doing Political Campaigns.

1) Door to Door Campaign- Subject to any other restrictions including extant COVID-19 guidelines, a group of 5 (five) persons including candidates, excluding security personnel, if any,  is allowed to do door to door campaigning.

2) Road Shows – The convoy of vehicles should be broken after every five vehicles instead of 10 vehicles (excluding the security vehicles, if any). The interval between two sets of convoy of vehicles should be half an hour instead of gap of 100 meters.

3) Election Meetings – Public gatherings/ rallies may be conducted subject to adherence to extant COVID-19 guidelines. District Election Officer should take following steps for this purpose:
(a) District Election Officer should, in advance, identify dedicated grounds for public gathering  with clearly marked Entry/Exit points.

(b) In all such identified grounds, the District Election Officer should, in advance, put markers to ensure social distancing norms by the attendees.

(c) Nodal District Health Officer should be involved in the process to ensure that all COVID-19 related guidelines are adhered to by all concerned in the district.

(d) District Election Officer and District Superintendent of Police should ensure that the number of attendees does not exceed the limit prescribed by State Disaster Management Authority for public gatherings.

(f) The political parties and candidates concerned should ensure that all COVID-19 related requirement like face masks, sanitizers, thermal scanning etc. are fulfilled during each of these activities.

(g) Non-compliance of Instructions – Anybody violating instructions on COVID-19 measures   will be liable to proceeded against as per the provisions of Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster   Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under Section 188 of the IPC. District Election  Officer should bring this to the notice of all concerned.

4) Allocation of public spaces must be done using Suvidha app in the manner already prescribed by Commission.

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