Election Commission moves Madras HC against 'murder charge' comment
The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday moved the Madras High Court seeking directions to the press to not report on oral observations made during court proceedings. The ECI took issue with the recent reportage of a plea wherein the HC orally observed that the Commission was "singularly responsible" for the COVID-19 situation in India and should perhaps face murder charges.
Affidavit filed by state Chief Electoral Officer
The ECI filed a plea before the Madras HC addressing issues with the media reportage of the court's April 26 oral observations. The affidavit has been filed by the Chief Electoral Officer at Tamil Nadu, Satyabrata Sahoo. A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy is slated to hear the matter later in the day, Bar and Bench reported.
Plea seeks directions to media to not report oral comments
The plea seeks that the court issue directions to the press and electronic media that only what forms part of the record in the present proceedings is to be reported. Further directions may be issued to the media houses to release necessary clarification in this regard, the plea said. It also sought directions to the police to not register any such FIRs for murder.
Oral observations have no sanctity in law: Plea
The plea argued that the "murder charge" comment was not recorded in the court's order, but has created prejudice against it. A police complaint has been filed against a Deputy Election Commissioner alleging murder, it said. Oral observations have no sanctity in law, but they have the potential of "masquerading as the institutional opinion of the Judiciary" when reported in the media, it added.
'Media reports on oral comments tarnish ECI's image'
The plea said that media reports on the April 26 oral observations have tarnished the image of the ECI as an independent constitutional agency that is entrusted with the constitutional responsibility of conducting elections.
Elections announced when infections were relatively low: Plea
The plea also argued that the single-phase Tamil Nadu Assembly elections had ended on April 4. It highlighted that the Calcutta (in an April 23 order) and Kerala (in an April 27 order) High Courts had expressed satisfaction with the COVID-19-related measures taken by ECI on counting day. The number of infections was relatively low when the elections were announced, it added.
'ECI's duty doesn't absolve state government from its obligations'
The plea also stated that the polling body's duty to conduct free and fair elections does not absolve the state government from obligations to enforce laws of general application in the interest of the safety and health of the citizenry.