The Election Commission (EC), which received flak for the lackadaisical approach in which the Assembly elections were held in five states in gross violation of COVID safety protocols, has now failed to get a reprieve from the Supreme Court.
The top court has dismissed the petition filed by the poll panel seeking a restraining order against the media from reporting oral remarks of judges during court hearings.
Notably, the EC had moved the apex court after the Madras High Court lambasted it for its abject failure in holding state elections while conforming to the COVID safety guidelines. The high court had orally remarked that the poll panel is singularly responsible for the second wave of COVID-19 and that its officers should be booked for murder.
What SC said
The Supreme Court rejecting the EC plea said that it will be retrograde to restrain HCs from making observations or gagging the media from reporting observations. It said, “No restriction on media from reporting on court proceedings. It is integral to freedom of speech and expression.”
The top court said, “Now people are more digital-oriented and hence look to the internet for information. It would do no good to prevent the new medium from reporting proceedings. Constitutional bodies would do better than to complain about this.”
The bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud said, “Degree of caution and circumspection in the language would have allayed problems. We find no merit in EC prayer to restrain the media from reporting court proceedings.”
The bench said, “There is a need for judges of superior courts to exercise restraint for off-the-cuff remarks. Media cannot be restrained from reporting court proceedings. The language of the bench should be sensitive to constitutional values.”
What Madras High Court said about EC
The Madras High Court on April 26 lambasted the Election Commission saying that it is responsible for the second wave of COVID and should be probably booked for murder.
The strong remarks against the poll panel came for its abject failure to ensure COVID-appropriate guidelines in election rallies in Tamil Nadu and four other states where Assembly polls were held amid a raging pandemic.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee told the poll panel, “Your institution is singularly responsible for the second wave of COVID-19. Your officers should be booked on murder charges probably.”
The election body had failed to enforce COVID safety rules like masks, sanitisers and distancing during campaigning despite court orders, the bench added.
“Were you on another planet when the election rallies were held,” Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee questioned.“Public health is paramount. Distressing that constitutional authorities ought to be reminded. It is only when a citizen survives that he will be able to enjoy the rights that a democratic republic guarantees,” the court said.
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