“The prophylactic ‘SMS’ against Covid-19 – Sanitiser, Mask and Social Distancing – was unfortunately lost in the din of the electoral campaigns. There is a general sentiment that we let our guard down, but we cannot let it happen again,” observed Kerala High Court on Friday, while closing a Public Interest Litigation seeking as an Interim Order that the High Court declare all kinds of public and social gatherings, processions or parades in the ‘name of election oriented or organisational activities’ by the political parties, to be unconstitutional and illegal during the period when the Covid-19 protocols are in force.
The PIL was filed by Dr Pradeep KP, in person. On April 30, the court, while considering the nature of the prayers made, decided to suo motu implead the Election Commission of India. The Court also directed the State Police Chief, and District Collectors – to ensure that no social or political assemblages, meetings, gatherings, processions or parades of any kind – be that celebratorial, cheering or otherwise – in violation of the COVID-19 protocols are held.
On Friday, in response of the High Court’s order, the standing Counsel for the Election Commission of India, Deepu Lal Mohan informed the Court that the Election Commission of India came out with directives to the State Government to ensure that no celebratory or congratulatory processions or parades are allowed anywhere in the State of Kerala. He submitted that these have also been complied with by the law enforcement officials of the state.
The division bench of Justices Devan Ramachandran and Dr Kauser Edappagath held that the seemingly unbridled and unrestrained euphoria of an inevitable and vital democratic exercise – the local body and State Legislature elections – was in full display in the last few months and one can only rue in hindsight that, perhaps, if we had been collectively a little more careful, the present crisis could have been better contained.
The Court said, “Had there been some discretion exercised at the time when the election campaigns were conducted, we are sure that there would have been great difference to the crisis which we are facing today.”
While closing the PIL, the bench commended the petitioner for having brought this grave issue to the notice of the High Court and recorded appreciation of the effort taken by the Election Commission of India and the Police force of this State in ensuring that there was no violation of the Covid-19 protocols by any political party.