APPEAL NO.-1767 OF 2021 ARISING OUT OF SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION CASE NO- 673 OF 2021
(KASHISH BHARDWAJ 2nd YEAR MAIMS)
FACTS OF THE CASE
1. On the 26th of February the Election commission of India announced the general election for Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Pondicherry, and Assam. The polling day for the state of Tamil Nadu was decided to be the 6th of April 2021 and the counting day was the 2nd of May.
2. During the preparation of the polling day the election commission issued several notices and guidelines on 12th march they issued a notice stating that all the parties must adhere to COVID protocols during rallies, later a notice was issued banning all the political rallies because COVID protocols were not strictly followed
3. Later a writ petition was filed by the respondent who is the district secretary and also a candidate of AIADMK for 135 legislative constituent assembly before the Madras High Court under article 226 of the Constitution, seeking direction for the proper implementation of the COVID guidelines during the counting of votes.
4. So the high court while hearing the case held the election commission liable for the surge in the cases and the court observed that the EC is the institution singularly responsible for the second wave of COVID-19 and that the EC should be put up for MURDER CHARGES although these comments were not part of the final judgment still these were highly publicized in the media
5. The election commission alleged that these allegations are baseless and it also filed a miscellaneous suit requesting the court to pass an interim order directing the police authorities to not file any cases on the charges of murder taking into consideration the oral comments given by the court during the case. And also requested the court to pass an interim order directing the media housed to issue a clarification regarding the matter and that only the final judgment is included in the media reports, not the oral comments.
6. The Madras court heard the case again on the 30th of April and the high court disposed of the petition and the miscellaneous was also closed in light of the order
7. The election commission aggrieved by the judgment of the high court approached the supreme court challenge that the miscellaneous application has not to be evaluated on the merits and its grievances have not been heard properly.
SUPREME COURT PROCEEDINGS
8. The supreme court passed an interim stay on the order of 30th April and an interim relief order was passed which stated that no coercive action should be taken against the election commission officials.
10. The disparaging comments by the high court has sparked an irrelevant controversy all over India as this observation was highly publicized by media houses, which they said have tarnished the image of the election commission and reduced the faith of people in a constitutional body which is not good for democracy.
11. The counsels continuously denied that there has been any surge in cases during the polling period and that they have organized successful polling in many other states too and they have handled the COVID-19 situation with utmost care and paramount importance and the allegations are baseless
12. The counsels also sought direction for the media houses that the court proceeding should not be sensationalized which leads to loss of public belief in the constitutional body so a balance must be maintained between court proceedings and media freedom.
14. The supreme court after listening to both sides opined that the Courts must exercise caution while passing any comments which can be misinterpreted easily, the court observed that the comments made by the high court were harsh and said that they should keep their position in mind “that they are sitting on a chair where people come with their problems which require them to be respected and the high court itself passing such derogatory comments against any institution let alone EC is a constitutional body.
15. As long as the media houses are concerned since the comments were not part of the judicial record and there is no point in restricting them, the court stated that they stand as a staunch proponent of freedom of expression and speech of those who speak, of those who wish to hear, wish to be heard.
2. The honorable Supreme Court disposed of the petition on the above grounds hoping that the matter can rest with a sense of balance that the court tried to bring