Election Commission of India Asks Court to Prohibit Media Reports of Judges’ Comments

Four Indian states and one union territory underwent polling for their state legislative election right in the midst of the pandemic’s virulent and devastating return. Assembly polls were held for 294 seats in West Bengal, 234 seats in Tamil Nadu, 140 seats in Kerala, 126 seats in Assam, and 30 seats in Puducherry. The results are due on 2 May.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday moved a plea in the Madras High Court to seek to prevent the media from reporting whatever a judge says in the privacy of his own courtroom during a hearing. 

The development comes days after a hearing when the Madras High Court rebuked the commission for allowing election rallies to take place in four states and a Union territory during a period of emergency. During the hearing, Madras High Court Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee even remarked that Election Commission officials should probably be “booked on murder charges” for their oversightpolitical .

The court had held the ECI “singularly” responsible for the spread of the second COVID-19 wave. 

In the plea, the ECI mentioned that the media should only report observations recorded in the order.

“The media reports have tarnished the image of the ECI as an independent constitutional agency entrusted with the constitutional responsibility of conducting elections,” the plea read.

It also highlighted that a police complaint had been filed against the Deputy Election Commissioner accusing him of murder in West Bengal after the media reported the observations. 

The commission also compared data of the rebound in COVID-19 cases is states where legislative assembly elections took place and those which had no election between 20 March and 4 April, and said that their findings do not indicate that electioneering was a significant factor – much less a singular factor, as suggested by the court.

For example, in states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi – which had some of the highest numbers of cases – no elections had taken place.  

“It therefore cannot be said that the Election Commission is ‘singularly responsible for the second wave of COVID-19’, nor can the Election Commission officers be said to be in any way culpable of ‘murder’,” the ECI told the Madras High Court in its plea.

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