Madras HC to the fore

Elections in this country are a akin to a circus. But considering that Covid 19 had hardly exited the country and that a more virulent and mutative form of Covid had begun its insidious appearance it would have been prudent to make the elections low key and without much fanfare and to appeal to people over television. But political parties would have none of that. No less than the Prime Minister and Home Minister criss-crossed the country throwing all Covid protocols aside. The hoi-polloi of this country love to mimic the high and mighty, so when the Prime Minister and his second in command did not need masks while addressing election rallies it was considered kosher for ordinary citizens too to dunk the masks and walk around as if there was no Covid. But states that went to elections, namely Kerala, Tamilnadu, West Bengal and Assam will now be paying a heavy price for believing that Covid has indeed been defeated as proclaimed by the Union Health Minister some weeks ago.

In such extenuating circumstances it was expected that the Election Commission of India (ECI) would stand its ground as an independent institution and stop the public rallies. But as has been amply demonstrated the ECI too is no longer as independent as Mr TN Seshan, it’s chief architect would have wanted it to be. All institutions today have been compromised with those leading them waiting for sinecure post retirement appointments. In such situations, it is the judiciary alone that can bring order and sanity to a system gone horribly wrong.

The observation by the Madras High Court on Monday, castigating the ECI and holding it singularly responsible for the second wave of Covid 19 is salutary. Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, in fact, made a stinging oral remark, “Your officers should be booked on murder charges probably.” His second remark asking the ECI if it was living in another planet, is a strong stricture on the functioning of the Commission which seems to be guided not by wisdom but by the desire to appease the ruling Party and Government.

The staggering of the Bengal elections for over a month was also unnecessary. The Bengal CM had on April 15 last, called for completing the process for the remaining 159 (out of 294) seats at one go due to the rise in Covid cases. The BJP turned it into a political joke and claimed that Mamata Banerjee knows she is losing hence the call for completing the poll process early. Indeed, the safety of citizens of this country has become less important than elections. Thankfully the Madras High Court has stood by the citizens of this country.

The Madras High Court has also asked the ECI to come up with a blueprint of action for the counting day on May 2 and present it to the Court on April 30. Other High Courts need to follow suit.

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