On Monday, the Supreme Court came down hard on the Election Commission and ruled that the media can’t be stopped from reporting a hearing. The ruling came after the Madras High Court observed that the Election Commission should be charged for “murder” as it was responsible for the increase in the COVID-19 cases in the country.
On April 26, The Election Commission of India objected to Madras High Court’s remarks which said that the ECI should be charged with murder charges due to its mismanagement in curbing the COVID-19 protocols’ “wanton abuse” during the Assembly election rallies across the poll bound states. The remark made the ECI approach the top court.
On May 3, the Supreme Court bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah said that the media is a watchdog that should be able to report everything that transpires to ensure accountability.
The bench also said that it never intended to “demoralize” the high courts are altars of democracy. The top court bench said that the remarks that critical remarks that come from high courts are said in a transparent dialogue between the bench and the bar.
Thus, indicating that the Supreme Court cannot interfere with the observations made by the Madras High Court.
The bench said, “The discussions that take place are of importance and are in public interest. It’s not a monologue that one person will speak and then judges will speak.”
The top court also said, “We have to protect the judicial sanctity of the process. We have to make sure that High Court judges and chief justices are independent to make views. We have to make sure that media reports everything that happens in court so that we judges conduct proceedings with dignity,”
“We don’t want to demoralise High Courts”: SC
“We are looking at this from a long term and impact on functioning of High Courts. We don’t want to demoralise our High Courts. They are vital pillars of our democracy. Things are often said in an open dialogue between bar and bench,” the bench added.
The court also added how an order that’s passed by Supreme Court could affect the morale of the High Courts of different states in the country.
EC Should be charged for murders: Madras High Court
Earlier, the Madras High Court slammed the ECI for “not stopping political parties” that disregarded that COVID-19 safety protocols by conducting rallies and roadshows where crowds gathered during the COVID-19 crisis. The Madras HC was severely critical of the commission and said how the panel should be charged with murder as the EC was “the only institution responsible for the situation that we are in today”.
The Election Commission in its response claimed how the Madras High Court’s remark was “uncalled for, blatantly disparaging and derogatory” and approached the Supreme Court.
During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud took into consideration the fact that the Madras High Court’s remark was harsh. He said, “Speaking for myself, I would not have used the words of Madras High Court.”
However, Justice Shah then added that judges make certain observation keeping in mind the public interest so that things are taken seriously and set right in future.
“Sometimes we are harsh because we want to see in larger public interest something is done. After a series of orders, the High Court may be anguished. Look at Gujarat; 18 people died due to fire in (a) COVID-19 ward and this in spite of series of orders where fire NOC is required,” said Justice Shah.
“COVID management is not Election Commission’s responsibility”: EC
Meanwhile, Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi represented the Election Commission and said how the ECI was pained by the remarks made by the Madras HC.
He noted, “Most of the judges in judiciary is conscious, but there are judges who say a lot of things which is not related to the case. There is no dialogue; it’s just a conclusion that we are murderers.”
Further, in the hearing the ECI through its representation said how the commission doesn’t have enough staff to restrict people that took part in the rallies in the political campaigning.
“There is an assumption that ECI has responsibility for all of this. COVID-19 management is not the prerogative of Election Commission of India. Harsh criticism is also welcome but somewhere a line has to be drawn,” said advocate Dwivedi.