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“Election Commission officers should be booked for murder”

The country has been fighting the devastating second wave of the virus, with exponential deaths every day. While the government was busy patting their shoulders bank in February 2021 and calling about being the “pharmacy of the world”, they forgot to realise that the second wave was yet to come and as we can see now, the country is not prepared at all. Ignorance or arrogance, we can’t seem to name. But the worst part is, the government wasn’t the only one whose ignorance led to the crisis we’re standing at today. While there are a lot of institutions like media, Supreme Court and others that are standing in the line of blame, with the government topping the list, there’s another institution that we’ll specifically talk about today, whose ignorance not only led to the conversion of pandemic into crisis but also called in questions on the independent nature of it. Yes, you guessed it right- the Election Commission of India.
Back when the country was busy encountering 2.5 lakh cases each day, our Supreme leader and home minister were busy campaignings for the West Bengal election, with rallies of hundreds of people and dangerously large crowds. Well, the incidents of our leaders campaigning without masks and without proper COVID-19 protocols are distinctly printed in our memories because it was an explicit portrayal of the ruling government’s priorities. However, what was more heartbreaking was the fact that the Election Commission, which is supposedly the free, autonomous constitutional authority, didn’t bat an eye on the ongoing matter for the longest time.
This constitutional body that took charge as a commission independent of executive control and interference has not really been very good at maintaining the interdependence in the recent period. Many of its decisions have been questionable, even troubling during the 2019 elections. The perception has grown that it is biased and, even if this may be not totally true, it is a worrying sign that voters and citizens have come to believe that the organisation has favoured the incumbent party. Right from the announcement of the schedule of holding a seven-phase election back in 2019 during the peak of summer to turning a blind eye to the numerous infractions of senior BJP leaders — including the prime minister — the EC’s many actions have been baffling and problematic. The number of ‘clean chits’ issued to Narendra Modi, despite him making provocative statements and skirting very, very close to the regulations, have raised multiple eyebrows. More recent of these doubt-provoking decisions was the election commission’s order relaxing the rules for the appointment of polling agents has been referred to as biased, controlled and influenced by the Ruling government’s influences. And how can it not? According to a March 2009 rule by the EC, polling agents who are appointed by the contesting candidates shall have to be electors in the same polling stations or from neighbouring polling stations falling in the same constituency. However, the provision was amended recently to allow an elector from any part of an Assembly constituency to be appointed as a polling agent.
Officials with EVMs, masks reach booths as EC tries to win elections during  Covid - The Economic Times
Not only that, the Election Commission’s decision to limit the campaign period between 7 pm to 10 am became a matter of sheer mockery amongst the netizens because, well, it doesn’t take a genius to presume the extent of the campaign during the said hours anyway. Oh, did we forget to mention how late this decision of the commission came through, after brutal criticisms and questions? In another recent example of the commission’s influenced handling of the situation, it ruled out changing the Bengal poll dates, saying that it is not “feasible” to club the remaining phases, despite about 60 per cent of the people of West Bengal wanting otherwise. Note that this decision came at a point when the country was registering more than 3 lakh cases of the virus each day.
Thus, in a recent session, the Madras High Court slammed the Election Commission of India for even allowing political rallies as the country battled the devastating second wave of the virus. Madras High Court Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee reprimanded the Election Commission up for failing to ensure COVID-19 norms were followed during rallies, remarking that Election Commission is “singularly responsible” for the second wave of COVID-19.  “Election Commission officers should be booked on murder charges probably,” Justice Sanjib Banerjee remarked, as per reports from the session. When the election commission’s counsel said that measures have been taken to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Madras High Court Chief Justice remarked: “Were you on another planet when political rallies were being held?” Well, looks like the madras High Court came down heavily on the election commission, and for all the right reasons.
“Public health is of paramount importance and it is distressing those constitutional authorities have to be reminded in such regard. It is only when a citizen survives that he’ll be able to enjoy the rights that a democratic republic guarantees,” Chief Justice Banerjee told the Election Commission. Tamil Nadu is one of the states that went to the polls on April 6 this year. The High Court also warned that it will stop counting on May 2, which is when the results are to be declared for elections in five states and one Union Territory if the Election Commission does not put in place a proper plan to ensure COVID-19 norms are followed. “The situation now is of survival and protection. Everything else comes next,” the Chief Justice said. The High Court has directed the Election Commission to hold a consultation with the State Health Secretary and place on record a plan to enforce COVID-19 protocol on counting day by April 30.
I’m sure the citizens could finally take a breath of relief because the Election Commission went above and beyond in crossing lines this time at the expense of people’s safety. While we are questioning our politicians and seeking accountability from them, autonomous institutions like the Election Commission need to make sure they stay unbiased.

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