HC says it expects parties will adhere to COVID protocols on counting day in Bengal

KOLKATA: The Calcutta High Court on Friday said that it expects political parties, their candidates and supporters will adhere to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Covid-19 protocol on May 2, the day of counting of votes, keeping in view the Covid-19 pandemic situation.

A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee also said that it expects the guidelines are enforced by the state agencies and the Election Commission of India in West Bengal including in and around the offices of political parties.

A PIL before the court raised concerns over adherence to the COVID-19 protocols at the time of counting of votes and declaration of the results of the West Bengal assembly elections on May 2.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that to celebrate victory of a candidate of a party in an area, supporters may assemble in and around the party office and that there are chances of violation of the Covid-19 protocols.

State Advocate General Kishore Dutta submitted that the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued an order on April 29, specifying the directions to be followed for Covid-19 management, which are applicable throughout the country irrespective of any election or not.

The guidelines prohibit political, social, religious or any other kind of gathering, he submitted before the court.

The high court on April 22 expressed dissatisfaction with the Election Commission of India over enforcement of Covid-19 health safety norms during the West Bengal assembly election process, including campaigning.