CEC moves Supreme Court against Madras HC’s comments

Petition asks whether HC was justified in saying the ECI alone was responsible for surge in pandemic

The Chief Election Commissioner of India has appealed to the Supreme Court against the oral comments attributed to the judges of the Madras High Court on the poll body and its officials, portraying them as responsible for the surge in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A special leave petition urged the top court to direct the police not to register cases for murder against Election Commission officials or take any coercive action on the basis of media reports on oral observations attributed to the High Court judges.

The petition follows a bid by the Election Commission to obtain an order from the Madras High Court to gag the media from reporting oral observations made by judges during the hearing of elections-related cases. The High Court, however, refrained from passing any such order on April 30.

In its petition in the apex court, the Commission said the oral comments would impact or lower the faith of the masses in the poll body and the democratic process.

The Commission said the oral comments were disparaging and derogatory.

The petition asked whether the Division Bench of the High Court was justified in observing that the Election Commission of India (ECI) was alone responsible for the surge in the pandemic and officers “should be put up for murder charges”.

‘No evidence’

The ECI said the HC should have refrained from making such allegations without evidence.

The petition asked whether it was justified in the least for an independent constitutional authority to make allegations against another which would effectively tarnish the image of the latter.

The ECI said the oral observations have led to the filing of a criminal complaint against the officer(s) of the Election Commission of India.

The petition said the Bench of the HC should have given the ECI an opportunity to place the entire factual position on record before making the allegations orally. It amounted to a violation of the principles of natural justice.

Was there any occasion for the Division Bench of the High Court to have made such observations on April 26, particularly when campaigning in Tamil Nadu had ended on April 4, the petition asked.

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