EC grants further relaxations for physical public meetings

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The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Sunday issued revised guidelines following an improvement in the prevailing Covid situation and considering the short period remaining for campaigning for elections.

According to the revised guidelines, ban on road shows, padyatras, cycle, bike, vehicles rallies or processions will continue while the maximum number of persons permissible for door to door campaigning fixed at 20 will also remain as before.

The ban on campaigning between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. will also continue as before and the restrictions regarding outdoor meeting, indoor meetings, rallies will be further relaxed subject to condition that the number of persons attending the indoor or outdoor meetings or rallies will be limited to maximum of 50 per cent of the capacity of indoor halls and 30 per cent of the open ground capacity or as fixed by District Election Officers (DEO) as per requirement of the social distancing norms and whichever is less.

The Commission has also said that if the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) has set the ceiling limits or percentage of the capacity for number of persons attending indoor hall or open ground, that will prevail.

“The open ground rallies can be held only in the grounds specifically designated by the district authorities and subject to compliance of all the conditions of SDMA whereas allocation of these grounds will be given equitably by District Administration through e-Suvidha portal on first come first serve basis. Capacities of these grounds wall be fixed by the District Administration well in advance and notify to all the parties,” the Commission said.

The revised norms also directed that there should be multiple entry and exit points so that there is no crowding as people are coming and leaving the venue. “All entrances must have adequate hand hygiene and thermal screening provisions. Adequate number of hand sanitizers should be kept at entrance as well as within the rally area while the seating arrangement must ensure adequate physical distancing and use of masks at all times is mandatory,” the panel said.

The ECI also directed the concerned state authorities in five poll bound states for the arrangement of adequate manpower to be deployed, arranged by the organizers to ensure observance to physical distancing norms, mask wearing and other preventive measures at all times.

According to the new directions, at the designated open ground meetings, people should be accommodated in adequate clusters and such clusters should be separated by separation arrangements. The organisers will ensure this arrangement and nodal officers will ensure compliance and they, along with concerned political parties shall abide by all the above instructions and SDMA related guidelines and ensure Covid appropriate behaviour by persons participating in meetings, rallies and the organisers will be responsible for any breach of the Covid related protocols and guidelines.

The District Magistrates will nominate nodal officers to oversee the arrangements made by organisers and ensure compliance of the guidelines while the ADMs and Superintendent of Police (SPs) will ensure compliance.

The ECI has entrusted the overall responsibility of the DEO concerned to identify, notify and allot the designated spaces in advance for the aforesaid purposes while all remaining restrictions as contained in the Revised Broad Guidelines for Conduct of Elections, 2022 issued on January 8, 2022 shall continue to operate.

The Commission will review the situation periodically and take necessary decision for amendment in its guidelines, if any, based on ground level situation.

The Commission also said that these relaxations have given in view of need for greater participation of political parties and candidates in the assembly elections of the five poll bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttrakhand and Manipur.

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