State polls: Delhi HC notice on plea to debar candidates flouting mask norms

The Delhi High Court has sought response from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Election Commission on a petition seeking debarment of candidates violating mask guidelines during the ensuing Assembly elections to four states and a Union Territory.

A bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notice on the petition filed by Chairman of think tank Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC), Dr Vikram Singh.

Appearing for the Election Commission, advocate Pankaj Chopra opposed the issuance of notice, stating that elections were not happening in Delhi, and mask-related guidelines are to be enforced by district-level Officials of five states.

He submitted that merely because the Election Commission is in Delhi, the Delhi High Court will not automatically have jurisdiction.

Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Virag Gupta submitted that the objection of Election Commission is frivolous, especially when Covid-19 is on the rise.

He highlighted by the notification issued on February 26, the Election Commission had made it mandatory for every person involved in election-related activity to wear a mask.

He also relied on a separate order of the Delhi High Court in which Justice Hari Shankar took suo motu cognizance of non-wearing of masks by passengers in a Kolkata-Delhi flight.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that when the High Court can take cognizance on non-wearing of masks in Kolkata airport, it can also entertain this petition as like the aviation regulator, the poll panel is also based in Delhi.

He submitted that Election Commission should perform its legal and constitutional obligations as per Article 324 of the Constitution.

The court thereafter issued notice and directed the Ministry of Home Affairs and Election Commission to file their reply. The matter will now be heard on April 30.