India's election commission should face murder charges over Covid-19 spike, Madras High Court says

Court says body has allowed political parties to breach pandemic protocols during elections

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The Indian Election Commission "should be put up on murder charges" after allowing Covid-19 restrictions to be breached during national elections, Madras High Court said.

The commission should be held responsible for “not stopping political parties” from breaching protocols during campaign rallies, Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said at a hearing on pandemic election safety.

Four of India's states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, West Bengal and the union territory of Puducherry – are still holding assembly elections. Voting in West Bengal, one of the most populous states, is set to end on April 29.

The court said the commission is “the only institution responsible for the situation that we are in today”.

"You should be put up on murder charges.”

The ruling from the Madras High Court comes days after another high court in Calcutta censured the commission for not ensuring political parties were following protocols.

“You have been singularly lacking any kind of exercise of authority. You have not taken measures against political parties holding rallies despite every order of this court saying ‘maintain Covid protocol, maintain Covid protocol’,” the Madras High Court said.

The chief justice also said that if a plan was not prepared to enforce regulations by May 2, all counting would be stopped.

India is facing a surge in cases, with thousands of people dying every day.

The latest wave comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi allowed both political and holiday events to take place.

While campaigning in Bengal earlier this month, Mr Modi praised the large crowd.

"The crowd was only a quarter of the size," Mr Modi said referring to his last rally in the area. "[But] today, in all directions, I see huge crowds of people ... Today, you have shown your power."