The Election Commission says that the remarks by the Madras High Court last week “dented the institution” and asks that the media be stopped from reporting observations.
The media cannot be stopped from reporting any court hearing and “must report fully” what happens in court, the Supreme Court said today as the Election Commission complained about being “castigated without any evidence” on political rallies during the crusade for state elections.
“The media is powerful and communicating what happens in court. Not only our judgements, but the raising of questions, answers and dialogues is a concern for citizens. Media not reporting observations is far-fetched,” the Supreme Court told the Election Commission.
Last week, the Election Commission approached the Supreme Court against what it called “blatantly disparaging remarks” by the Madras High Court over holding polls amid the deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 26 April, the Madras High Court said that the Election Commission “probably should be booked for murder” to prevent political rallies for elections to be held in Tamil Nadu, but these remarks did not give it until the final order, stating “Counting at any cost can be a catalyst to move forward”.
The Election Commission’s petition before the Supreme Court says the remarks “dented the institution” and asks that the media be stopped from reporting observations. It also points at the role of the government, which is significant as the government has often shifted the responsibility of enforcing Covid safety rules to the election body.
Lawyer Rakesh Dwivedi, representing the Election Commission, said it was the government under the Disaster Management Authority that had to manage the rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister (E Palaniswami) and “they committed the breach” but the Commission had been castigated even though its officials suffered Covid and had the tough task of conducting elections.
The Supreme Court replied that the Election Commission is the constitutional authority to conduct elections. “We cannot in today’s time say that media will not report the contents of the court hearing. Discussions taking place in the High Court have equal public interest as the final order of the court,” it said.
“Something is observed in the larger public interest. The Election Commission should treat it as a bitter pill in the right way,” said Justice MR Shah.