A bail application hearing in Allahabad High Court yesterday took a surprise turn as the single judge bench deliberated upon rising cases of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 and went on to urge the Election Commission of India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban political rallies and delay the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Election 2022 by a few months.
A bench of Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav, after granting bail to applicant Sanjay Yadav in a case, rued the fact that over 400 such cases are listed before the court and during the hearing, advocates assemble in large numbers without maintaining social distancing and urged the Registrar General of the HC to make some arrangement to tackle this situation. Justice Yadav noted that countries like China, the Netherlands, and Germany have imposed complete or partial lockdowns due to the rising number of cases of the Omicron variant. The court also said that the gram panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal Assembly polls led to a rise in COVID-19 infections due to which many people died.
The bench noted that all the political parties are mobilising lakhs of people by holding rallies and meetings as the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections near and it is not possible to follow COVID protocols, including social distancing where such a huge crowd is present. It warned that if this is not stopped, then the consequences could be much more dire than the second wave of the pandemic.
The court then requested the Election Commission of India to immediately stop political rallies, gatherings and also order political parties to campaign through newspapers and TV channels. The HC urged the EC to delay the assembly elections by two or three months if possible while noting that the right to life has also been given under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Justice Yadav appreciated PM Modi for the COVID-19 vaccination campaign and requested him to consider stopping rallies, gatherings and postponing the upcoming state elections, taking strong measures in view of the pandemic situation.
Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in five states the February-March period next year and the EC is expected to make a formal announcement of the schedule soon. India recorded 6,650 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours. The active caseload in the country currently stands at 77,516 with 358 Omicron cases.