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MP HC directs FIR against Kamal Nath&Narendra Tomarfor COVID-19 protocol breach

The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently directed the District Magistrates of Datia and Gwalior to file a FIR against political leaders like Kamal Nath and Narendra Singh Tomar for alleged violation of COVID-19 norms during election campaigns (Ashish Pratap Singh v. State of MP & Ors).

Although the FIRs were registered against the candidates for whom the campaign ceremony was conducted as well as the organisers of the event, no FIRs were registered against Tomar and Nath.

On being assured by Additional Advocate General Ankur Mody to the Court that FIRs will be lodged against those political figures, the Court then ordered the District Magistrates of Gwalior and Datia, where the events were held, to ensure the same.

These orders from the High Court come close for the conduct of the Assembly by-elections, for which campaigning is now ongoing.

The Court observed that any candidate had the constitutional right to spread his manifesto, and that the same has become the fundamental right under the right to information. However, in light of the pandemic, it noted,

"In a contest/clash between right to campaigning and right to health and life, it is obvious that the right to health and life takes precedence. Right to health and life is comparatively more exalted, sacred and precious right when compared with the right to canvassing & campaigning. Thus, the right of candidate to campaign has to yield to the right to health and life of the electorate."

Asserting that it cannot be a fence sitter of the blatant infringement of the COVID-19 protocol, the High Court has ordered all the District Magistrates under its jurisdiction to prohibit from providing permission to conduct physical congregations for political campaigns, unless it can be ascertained that a virtual election campaign is not feasible.

However, this permission order of the Magistrate can only come into force after it has been authorised in writing by the Indian Election Commission.

Further condition to be followed for the campaigning on recognizing the hidden motives of the political parties to sweet talk voters out of the comfort of their homes in order to gain votes, the order notes,

"The holding of physical congregation even if permitted by District Magistrate and Election Commission of India, can take place only after the political party/candidate intending to hold a congregation deposits money with the District Magistrate which is sufficient to purchase double the number of masks and sanitizers required for protecting and sanitizing the number of persons expected in the congregation and also when candidate files an undertaking on affidavit that he shall be personally liable to distribute masks and sanitizers to all the members of the congregation before the meeting/congregation starts."

Previously, on 3 October, the High Court passed an interim order asking the DMs to ensure that, in the event of a breach of the COVID-19 protocol, the FIRs are registered against candidates, organisers, as well as national, legislative, state or social officials on whose behalf or on whose behalf the said gathering takes place.

Despite this directive, several wide events were found to be in violation of the security measures and protocol. The Court, however, on 12 October, ordered the District Magistrates concerned to treat as material for the registration of FIRs under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure the contents of the application describing the infringements and infringements in certain campaigning event as well as the amicus curiae article.

Next hearing to be held on Friday, October 23.








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