The Election Commission, caught in an avalanche of criticism over conducting polls amid the Covid pandemic, has postponed the next round -- a handful of by-elections. Three Lok Sabha seats and eight seats in state assemblies were up for election in this round.
"The Commission has reviewed the matter today and has decided that due to the outbreak of the second wave of Covid-19 in the country it would not be appropriate to hold bye-elections till the pandemic situation improves and conditions become conducive...," read a statement from the Commission.
Earlier today, amid global criticism over poll campaigns at such a time, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said, "We are a democratic country, you don't stop elections in a place like India".
"The only time we stopped elections was an era... some decades ago... when I was very much younger where none of us really wants to be associated with that kind of memory," he said, apparently referring to the Emergency imposed by the Congress government in 1975.
The Election Commission just fought it out in the Supreme Court against recent remarks by the Madras High Court -- that the poll body was "singularly responsible for the second wave of Covid".
"Your officers should be booked on murder charges probably," the judges had observed.
Furious that the media had carried the oral remarks, the Commission had gone to the Supreme Court, which yesterday said the Commission "should treat it as a bitter pill in the right spirit" in the larger public interest.
The Election Commission has contended that Covid protocols are implemented by state authorities under the Disaster Management Act and they are responsible for any breach during the election rallies.
The Commission was hugely criticised as the massive eight-phase elections in Bengal rolled on as polls everywhere ended and the daily Covid surge across the country climbed to 3-lakh plus.
The Commission had denied not only requests from the state's ruling Trinamool Congress to club the last three phases, but also bypassed the Calcutta High Court's words of caution.
Last month, the wife of a Trinamool Congress candidate who died of Covid, filed a murder case against the Election Commission. Nandita Sinha -- the wife of Kajal Sinha, who died on April 25 -- accused Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain and other officials of "careless and negligent" behaviour that led to the death of her husband and several other candidates.