Plea for compulsory masking during poll campaigns: Delhi HC seeks stand of Centre, EC

Plea for compulsory masking during poll campaigns: Delhi HC seeks stand of Centre, EC

On Thursday, the Delhi High Court has issued notice to Centre and the Election Commission and sought their response on a plea seeking directions to make it mandatory to wear masks at poll campaigns for the Assembly elections.

In the month of March, former Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police Vikram Singh filed a plea seeking directions to ensure that masks are worn mandatorily by everyone involved in poll campaigns during the ongoing elections in various states and union territories. The petition wanted to debar candidates from campaigning and fine them for violating coronavirus guidelines.

On Wednesday, Singh’s lawyer Virag Gupta filed a separate plea, urging the court to hear the petition on an urgent basis as the registry had listed it on April 30. The appeal was accepted and a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh began the hearing on Thursday. During the hearing, the bench issued notice to the Centre and the EC and sought their response to the application.

On Centre’s behalf, the Central government’s standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia accepted notice. 

Advocate Gupta told the bench that the poll body should “create awareness through digital, print and electronic media for compulsory masking and social distancing during assembly elections”.

Gupta argued, “When all the authorities are unanimous on mandatory masking, it defies logic as to why the rule should not be enforced in election campaigns.”

The plea by Singh underscored that despite various orders and guidelines, the campaigning was going on in full pace, without any regard to the pandemic regulations. The plea stated, “Reportedly, before the end of the first phase of campaigning in Assam and West Bengal, over 40 road shows and rallies had been organised by major political parties. At the same time, 59,117 fresh cases of Covid-19 were recorded in India on 25.03.2021, which is the highest in the last 159 days.”

The plea further highlighted that fines were being collected from people but no action was being taken against politicians.

After Thursday’s hearing, the bench has listed the application for further hearing on April 30 along with Singh’s main petition.

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