The Delhi High Court on Thursday issued a notice to the Centre and Election commission (EC) on a plea seeking direction to ensure that masks are worn during rallies and campaigns during the ongoing Assembly elections to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh sought a response from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and EC in the matter and slated the matter for hearing on April 30.
The plea sought direction to the poll body to publish prominently on its website, mobile apps, election materials and other platforms the "Election Commission Guidelines for the conduct of general elections/bye-elections during COVID-19" published in August 2020.
It also sought direction to the EC to create awareness through digital, print and electronic media for compulsory masking and social distancing during Assembly polls.
The plea also sought direction to the Centre to ensure strict compliance of its order dated March 23, 2021, especially in states and UT having Assembly elections
The petition filed by the Chairman of the think tank Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC), Dr Vikram Singh, stated that when all the authorities are unmous on mandatory masking, it defies logic as to why the rule should not be enforced in election campaigns.
Appearing for the Petitioner, Advocate Virag Gupta submitted that non-enforcement of guidelines issued by the Central government and EC is a matter of serious concern and merits urgent intervention. The number of COVID-19 cases are increasing by the day, with a double variant now also present in the country.
Earlier too the petitioner sought debarment of candidates violating mask guidelines during the ongoing Assembly elections.
The EC had recently, while announcing Assembly polls, mandated that "every person shall wear a face mask during every election-related activity." Yet, there are many instances wherein campaigners and their supporters are not wearing masks while campaigning for the elections, the petitioner added.
"That campaigners from Delhi also go to these elections to campaign for their party's candidate and criss-cross the country to campaign in every poll-bound State. That when such campaigners from all political parties are not wearing masks, not only they put themselves at risk, but also the common public at large," read the petition.
That as election rallies are attended by thousands of persons, even a single COVID-19 positive person can cause the event to become a super spreader. That the EC has issued the necessary directives but is failing to implement the same, the petitioner added.
The petitioner added that the EC has huge powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to enforce its guidelines.
( With inputs from ANI )
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