EC directs district bodies to take action for breach of COVID-19 protocols in Bengal

Kolkata: The Election Commission of India has expressed concern over the lackadaisical attitude of the district administrations in implementing the COVID-19 protocols during election rallies and meetings in West Bengal, where six of the eight phases of Assembly elections have been completed.

The poll panel, which held a virtual meeting on Friday with the District Election Officers (DEOs) for the seventh and eight phases of polling in the state, asked the officials to take strict action if COVID-19 protocols are not followed.

Sources in the Commission said that it asked the DEOs why the high court had to intervene for not implementing the COVID-19 protocols.

The poll panel also wanted to know why the district administrations are not taking enough steps to contain the candidates and party workers from ignoring the COVID-19 guidelines laid down by the EC, the sources added.

The commission’s reaction came after a division bench of the Calcutta High Court comprising Chief Justice T.B.N. Radhakrishnan and justice Arijit Banerjee came down heavily on the polling officials for not taking proper action to ensure that the COVID-19 guidelines are followed during voting and campaigning in the state.

“The Commission has asked all the district officials to lodge FIRs against people not following the COVID-19 guidelines and has asked them to send a compliance report to the poll panel,” an official said.

Sources in the EC said that a total of 13 persons, including six candidates in Birbhum district, have been booked for not following the COVID-19 guidelines.

Apart from that, another eight candidates in Malda district have been show-caused for ignoring the guidelines.

Earlier, the Commission had imposed a ban on roadshows and capped the attendance in public rallies to a maximum of 500 persons, that too with the availability of adequate space to maintain social distancing.

The poll panel had also disallowed any cycle/bike/vehicle rally for the purpose of campaigning.

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