The Supreme Court will on Monday will hear the Public Interest Litigation filed by Noida-based Advocate-on-Record (AOR), Sanjai Kumar Pathak, seeking directions for strict enforcement of COVID-19 pandemic guidelines and for action against all those who had allegedly violated protocols during Assembly elections in several states and the Kumbh Mela.
A three-judge bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, and also comprising Justices Nageshwar Rao and Ravindra Bhat will hear the petition filed by the advocate Pathak who filed the plea on April 16.
Pathak, had in his plea filed before the Apex Court, sought immediate strict directions to the Union of India (UOI) and the state of Uttarakhand to withdraw all the advertisements inviting people to Haridwar for Kumbh, keeping in view the worrisome facts and figures of coronavirus pandemic.
He also sought that the Central, Uttarakhand government and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) be directed immediately to clear the mass gathering from Haridwar city as soon as possible and prescribe a safety protocol with respect to the people returning from Kumbh to their homes.
The petitioner further sought a direction from the Top Court to the Central and state government, to not encourage or promote any gathering or event inconsistent with the spirit and object of the COVID guidelines and or orders issued by the UOI and NDMA.
Another direction, sought through the plea is that the Election Commission of India (ECI) should issue direction to the concerned authorities in the states where elections are being held to strictly enforce Covid guidelines against the candidates, campaigners and public during the election process and to take appropriate action against the violators in accordance with law.
Pathak, in his petition a copy of which was accessed by ANI, sought directions to the authorities to identify the violators of COVID-19 guidelines during the election process and to take appropriate action against them in accordance with law.
"On April 16, 2021, India reported more than 2 lakh new cases of COVID-19 positive patients. The health infrastructure is crumbling in many states. Hospitals and crematoriums are running out of space. Shortage of essential drugs is reported from many cities," Pathak said in his petition.
Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Assam and West Bengal Assembly elections were held. The respondent number, 4, the ECI, had not been able to enforce the Covid-19 Rules and regulations during the political rallies and campaigning, Pathak said in his petition.
The Union Home Minister, the Chief Ministers of respective states and host of star campaigners could be seen flouting the COVID-19 norms, Pathak said in his petition.
As India witnesses its highest surge in COVID-19, since the onset of the Covid pandemic, but visuals had surfaced of lakhs of devotees crowding in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, for Kumbh Mela and in the election rallies in States, ignoring the most basic of COVID-19 protocols, Pathak added.
Even though the disease is currently spreading at breakneck speed across the country, the Indian railways had organised 25 special trains to facilitate congregation and to link Haridwar Kumbh Mela to various locations for the pilgrims as per certain media report, the plea read further.
The Union health minister blamed the heightened spread of COVID-19 on ordinary citizens, saying that they "became very careless" and were no longer following social distancing norms, Pathak claimed in his petition, filed before the Supreme Court.
On the one hand, poor people on the street are often punished and treated violently by the police and executive authorities for individual violations of Covid-19 rules and regulations in the name of strict enforcement, on the other hand, the authorities are not only permitting but facilitating and promoting congregation of people in the events like Kumbh-2021 and Election rallies, Pathak in his petition said.
It is visibly clear that two separate and mutually inconsistent standards are being adopted by the authorities in dealing with the citizens of India, Pathak said in his petition.
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