Election Commission asks political parties to follow COVID-19 guidelines during public meetings

New Delhi [India], April 10: The Election Commission on Friday wrote to all national and state parties, asking them to follow all COVID-related guidelines during public meetings, rallies and other activities. The Commission also took a ‘serious view of the laxity in maintaining norms, particularly not wearing masks by political leaders on stage.’
In the letter by the Commission, it read, “It would be recalled that the Election Commission issued detailed guidelines for the conduct of general/bye-election on August 21, 2020, in view of COVID pandemic in the country, after having considered views/suggestions of various National/State political parties and Chief Electoral Officers of States/UTs.” “In the said guidelines, it was inter-alia stated in Item no. 13(3) that the political parties and candidates concerned should ensure that all COVID-19 related requirements like face masks, sanitizers, thermal scanning etc are fulfilled during each of these activities. It was further stated that non-compliance of instructions during the period of the public interface will attract actions as per provisions of Sections 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides invocation of Section 188 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and as also specified in MHA Order no. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A). It would be recalled that Election Commission issued detailed guidelines for conduct dated 29.07.2020”, read the letter.

The Commission has taken a serious view of the laxity in maintaining the norms, particularly not wearing masks and not keeping social distance by political leaders on dais/ stage and therefore, reiterates the said guidelines issued on 21.08.2020 referred to above for observance in all seriousness.
Political parties, leaders, campaigners, candidates, existing or aspiring policymakers are expected to be torchbearers for the campaign against COVID and hence are expected to not only set an example by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and following prescribed protocols but also by exhorting all the local formations who attend programs to follow COVID protocols.
The Commission seeks the fullest cooperation from the political parties and candidates of the strictest observance of the protocols so that all the COVID guidelines are adhered to by all the participants including organizers in the electioneering. It is advisable that political leaders/candidates who have incumbent duty to control the spread of COVID, demonstrate by their personal example and nudge all supporters at the beginning of the rally, meetings, campaign itself to wear masks, use sanitizers, and put in place crowd control measures as per social distancing norms.
“It is clarified that the Commission, in cases of breach, will not hesitate in banning public meetings, rallies etc of the defaulting candidates/star campaigners/ political leaders without any further reference”, read the letter.
The fourth phase of polling for 44 seats in the West Bengal Assembly election will be held on Saturday. The fifth phase of polls in 45 assembly segments is scheduled on April 17. The sixth round for 43 seats would be held on April 22. The seventh phase of polls for 35 constituencies is slated for April 26. The eighth and final round of elections is scheduled for April 29, when the remaining 35 assembly segments would go to the polls.
The Election Commission of India would declare the results on May 2.

-With ANI sources

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