Bengal: ECI Slaps FIRs, Show Cause Notices Against Candidates Violating COVID Norms

The poll body banned roadshows, vehicle rallies and large public meetings with more than 500 people starting from 7 pm on Thursday, April 22.

New Delhi: The Election Commission of India (ECI) till Friday lodged FIRs against 13 candidates for allegedly violating COVID-19 safety protocols and issued show cause notices to 33 others contesting the West Bengal assembly elections in the remaining seventh and eighth phases for the same reason, an official said.

On Thursday, April 22, after the Calcutta high court expressed dissatisfaction over the violation of COVID-19 protocols during the election campaign, the ECI banned roadshows and vehicle rallies as well as large public meetings with more than 500 people. Starting 7 pm on Thursday, the EC said no road show/padyatras; cycle, bike and vehicle rallies; and public meetings with more than 500 people would be allowed.

As flagrant violations still coming to the fore, the full bench of the ECI directed officials during a virtual meeting to continue “strictly dealing” with candidates violating the COVID-19 safety protocols, he said.

“A show-cause notice is first sent to a candidate for alleged violation of coronavirus protocols. If the officials are not satisfied with the reply to the notice, they must lodge an FIR. The officials must also send a compliance report to the Commission,” he said.

Also read: Bengal: EC Bans Roadshows, Vehicle Rallies Amidst COVID-19 Surge

Of the 13 candidates against whom FIRs were lodged, six are from the Birbhum district.

The ECI decided to book anyone violating the coronavirus safety protocols under the Epidemic Disease Act as well as the IPC Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), the official said.

At Friday’s meeting, the poll panel also asked district election officers and senior officials of the CEO’s office why the Calcutta high court had to intervene for non-implementation of the Covid protocol, a source in the poll panel said.

“Officials in the districts and the CEO were asked why enough steps were not taken against candidates and political party workers for violating the Covid guidelines laid down by the ECI,” the source said.

The Calcutta high court on Thursday had expressed dissatisfaction with the ECI over enforcement of Covid-19 health safety norms during the ongoing West Bengal assembly election process, including campaigning.

Hearing three public interest litigations (PILs) seeking enforcement of Covid protocol during the elections, the high court said that issuance of circulars and holding meetings on Covid safety were not enough.

Meanwhile, the ECI decided to deploy 796 companies of central forces for the 34 assembly constituencies going to polls in the seventh phase on April 26, the official added.

On the other hand, West Bengal on Friday, April 23, registered the highest single-day spike of 12,876 COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 7,13,780, the state health department said in a bulletin. The death toll also went up to 10,825 with 59 fresh fatalities, according to The Times of India.

(With PTI inputs)