- The court made the observations while hearing an unrelated bail petition
- The court requested to postpone the upcoming UP polls by a month or two
- Invoking Article 21, the judge said all Indians have a right to life
The Allahabad High Court has requested the Election Commission to postpone the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections by a month or two. It also requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban election-related gatherings in the state and think about postponing state elections over fears of the highly contagious Covid variant Omicron. The court made the observation while hearing an unconnected bail petition.
"If rallies are not stopped, results will be worse than the second wave," Justice Shekhar Yadav said, adding that, "Jaan hai toh Jahaan hai (if there is life, we have the world)."
The judge made these observations after pointing out that the court was regularly crowded as hundreds of cases were listed daily and social distancing was not followed by the large number of people who gathered there. "There's a possibility of the third wave of Covid as the cases of the new variant Omicron are rising," the judge observed. He then quoted news reports about the number of Covid cases and mentioned countries that have enforced lockdowns.
"Gram Panchayat elections and the Bengal assembly elections infected a lot of people, which caused many deaths as well," the judge said. He pointed out that political parties are organising rallies and gatherings for the upcoming UP assembly elections and following Covid protocols in such events is impossible.
Judge Yadav requested the EC to prohibit rallies and gatherings of any kind for the assembly elections and direct political parties to campaign through Doordarshan or newspapers and not physical events. Invoking Article 21 of the Constitution, he said all Indians have a right to life.
Uttar Pradesh is perhaps the most keenly contested and politically significant election as it also has the most number of Lok Sabha seats that play a crucial role in general elections. All political parties have already started their big election push with star campaigners drawing huge crowds at various rallies in the state. The Prime Minister, Home Minister, State Chief Minister, and leaders of all major opposition parties have been seen addressing huge gatherings with no scope for Covid protocols to be followed. Several other rallies have been planned for the rest of the month and early next year as well.
Maskless crowds and lack of Covid appropriate behaviour during elections have triggered widespread criticism. As the number of cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus rises steadily, there are concerns about pre-election political rallies turning into superspreader events that the health infrastructure of the state might not be fully equipped to deal with.