Pearl Narang

Pearl Narang is a final year law student of B.B.A.LL.B (Hons.) at Chandigarh University, Mohali and is currently interning as a Trainee in Business World Legal Community. She is also pursuing a diploma in Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution. She is passionate about both law and writing.

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COVID-19: Madhya Pradesh High Court Directs FIR Against Kamal Nath and Narendra Singh Tomar for Breach of Protocol

The Court was informed that political leaders like Kamal Nath and Narendra Singh Tomar have committed cognizable offences by breaching COVID-19 protocol in election campaign congregations.

Several parties and candidates under scanner for breach of protocol

The Bihar Legislative Assembly election, 2020 are said to be held from 28 Oct, 2020 to Sat, 7 Nov, 2020. The campaigning is going on in full swing. But this year is different, the elections will be held during a pandemic. To ensure safety during these times, several protocols have been released by the government concerning the conduct of elections. However, it was alleged that several parties and candidates were flouting the rules.

High Court's Order earlier asked district magistrates to register FIRs for breach of protocol

On October 3, 2020, the High Court had passed an interim order asking the District Magistrates in Gwalior and Datia to ensure that in case of violation of COVID-19 protocol, FIRs be registered against candidates, organizers, as well as the political, governmental or State or social functionaries in whose name or on whose behest and behalf the said congregation take place. Despite this, several large congregations were held for breaching the safety measures and protocol.

Therefore, the Court on October 12 directed the concerned District Magistrates to treat the contents of an application detailing violations and breaches in such congregations as well as the report of amicus curiae as information for registering FIRs under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

All of these FIRs were registered against the candidates for whom the campaign congregation was held as well as the organisers of the event but no FIRs were registered against Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath who were said to have committed cognizable offences by breaching COVID-19 protocol in election campaign congregations.

Additional Advocate General Ankur Mody assured the Court that FIRs would be registered against these political leaders also.

Right to health supersedes Right to information

While noting that every candidate has a statutory right to propagate their manifesto and the same has taken the colour of a fundamental right under the right to information. The Court stated,

"In a contest/clash between the right to campaigning and the right to health and life, it is obvious that the right to health and life takes precedence. Right to health and life is comparatively more exalted, sacred and precious right when compared with the right to canvassing & campaigning. Thus, the right of the candidate to the campaign has to yield to the right to health and life of the electorate."

The Court also directed that political parties have to deposit money with the District Magistrate to hold congestion. This money will be used for purchasing protection equipment like masks, sanitizers etc. The court stated,

"The holding of the physical congregation even if permitted by District Magistrate and Election Commission of India, can take place only after the political party/candidate intending to hold a congregation deposits money with the District Magistrate which is sufficient to purchase double the number of masks and sanitizers required for protecting and sanitizing the number of persons expected in the congregation and also when a candidate files an undertaking on affidavit that he shall be personally liable to distribute masks and sanitizers to all the members of the congregation before the meeting/congregation starts."

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COVID-19 kamal nath Narendta Tomar election campaigns

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