The ECI warns political parties that it would attract legal actions upon non-compliance. Credit: Election Commission of India via eci.gov.in

The Election Commission of India on Wednesday issued an advisory to all political parties reiterating its guidelines for campaigning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This action was taken in the wake of finding that political parties and candidates had been remiss in maintaining social distancing norms during poll campaigning. The Commission said that it has taken a “serious view of the laxity” and advised them to “demonstrate utmost vigil and care during electioneering.”

On October 9, the Commission had written:

“As representatives of public, this onerous responsibility rests with the political parties to ensure that they not only cooperate with the district machineries in following the due norms of public health safety as prescribed, but also instill a sense of discipline for civic behavior in their cadre while doing ground management during campaign times. It is requested that you may like to issue advisory to all your field representatives to demonstrate utmost vigil and care to abide by all the extant instructions in large interest of public health and avoid any penal action for breaching the provisions.”

The EC had also issued broad guidelines on August 21 warning political parties that it would attract legal actions as per Disaster Management Act, 2005, Section 188 of Indian Penal Code and other legal provisions upon violation. It continued that the Chief Electoral Officers and district officials would be expected to invoke the relevant penal provisions against the candidates and organizers of events for violations.

In the letter to the president and secretaries of recognized national and state political parties, the poll body said that “few instances have come to its notice, where large number of crowds has had assembled in utter violation of social distancing and the political leaders or campaigners were addressing the gathering without wearing masks in complete disregard of the guidelines issued.”

“By doing so, the political parties and candidates are not only flouting the guidelines of the Commission with impunity, but exposing themselves as well as the public attending the rallies/meetings to the danger of infection during the pandemic.” ,the letter continued.

The advisory came in view of the Bihar Assembly elections and bypolls across States underway.

The earlier advisory on August 21 had said the observance of preventive measures, including wearing masks, use of sanitizers and social distancing is a duty cast upon all the stakeholders in the larger interest of public health.

The Election Commission also added that it seeks the “fullest cooperation from parties so that its district election machinery ensures that all the preventive measures are adhered to by every participant, including organizers.”



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