Authored by Gitanjali Gupta, a 2nd-year student of Kamkus College of Law.
With the onset of the third wave of COVID all across the globe, India seems to be battling its war both at the national and the international level. It all began when the continuous warnings given by the World Health Organization (WHO) were being ignored and taken in an unserious way and the government was shouldering its huge responsibility of conducting massive rallies across the country at the cost of the health of its dear citizens. The poor souls were witnessing their future candidates without being cautioned of the danger that lay ahead of costing their lives to this deleterious health pandemic.
COVID and Election
On one hand, massive preparations were going on to conduct the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur, and Uttarakhand, and on the other hand, new covid cases were spreading at an alarming rate across the globe as per the news sources. There was COVID violation in poll-bound states in India when ministers were busy holding rallies and collecting their vote banks, not even thinking once that the Omicron had already stepped inside the country and might prove to be fatal for the poor public. The vigilant governments of other countries were imposing restrictions to contain and handle the deadly virus and our government was in no mood to even warn a single soul to wear a mask and maintain social distancing while they were cooperating and busy listening to the long speeches and false promises of their prospective candidates.
Democracy and Elections go hand in hand. Contestants are supposed to outline their manifestos before standing in the elections. People must be made aware of what their future government would be. Why should immunities be provided to the government for the non-adherence of policies laid down regarding health hazards? Whereas they owe a responsibility towards the general public regarding safeguarding their health as is laid down in Article 21, Protection of life and personal liberty.
A welfare state envisages sustaining a healthy nation which may podcast their contribution to the fruitful development of the nation as laid down by the Supreme Court in Vincent Parikurlangara v. Union of India. Article 21 of the constitution projects the obligation on the state to preserve life. It should not only be the paramount obligation of the medical staff to cater to the health needs of the people when in distress but also the responsibility of our frame workers of the Indian Constitution and our future generation leaders to be stringent towards their course of action. Negligence on their part has brought people to the doorsteps of hospitalization which could have been easily averted if proper caution was taken when huge gatherings were being organized and covid protocols were not ignored.
Was there a spike due to election rallies?
Campaigns have frequently included numerous rallies with large crowds- with little social distancing and little mask-wearing. Political campaigners and candidates were also observed failing to follow Covid safety protocols. Election rallies featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi, key opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, and other prominent politicians, as well as packed festivals and religious gatherings, have all contributed to the new corona virus’s unprecedented emergence.
After containing the initial surge late last year, India's leaders relaxed their guard. Experts say that by allowing or even encouraging dangerous behavior, they underestimated the virus, reopening the economy too quickly and too broadly. Days after India's COVID-19 outbreak was declared contained by the federal health minister in late January, Mumbai reopened its vast suburban train network, and authorities allowed tens of thousands of visitors into stadiums for international cricket matches.
The vast majority of the South Asian nation 1.35 billion people did not wear masks and ignored social distancing; while politicians including Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah greeted hundreds of thousands of people mostly maskless. Supporters barely wear masks at rallies. Families have suffered and lost their loved ones, students have not only missed their schools but were left online to cope up on their own and we speak of pledges of Article 21 where death by negligence amounts to legal punishment, as laid down in the case of Parmananda Katara v. Union of India
It is of prime importance as was stated in the case of Kirloskar Brothers Ltd. v. Employees’ State Insurance Corporation , that the right to protection of life and personal liberty is not only available even against the state and its instrumentalities but even extends to the private owners of industries to provide their workmen with proper facilities and health opportunities as pledged and provided in part 4 of the constitution forming an integral part of the Right to equality under Article 14 and Right to invigorated life under Article 21 which forms the basic fundamental rights of the citizens. Every state has its obligation and duties to make sure the conditions ensured for the survival of the netizens with dignity so they must take care of its people when they are put to such a big health hazard and no one on the political front came to rescue them.
What standards do we ensure and boast of as our fundamental rights which themselves have failed to protect their citizens and are not in tune with the constitution? This must even ensure that the responsibility of the state and the center becomes double folded towards the health of the nation instead of becoming blindfolded. The grave endangers to which the public is put only show the lack of our empathy by our constitution makers where the plight of people is pitiable under one of the extensive constitutions of the world. When people can be at service to the government, a question must arise in the minds of the lawmakers and judicial system that the same goes hand-in-hand for the current government. There are no questions put to their finer facets and the brunt is faced by the poor public in the form of lockdowns whereby in their own country they have to issue passes for essential services.
After the immediate rise in the cases of COVID, the states suddenly started putting night curfews being ignorant of the fact that COVID had a long way entered in their states when they were busy with the election rallies. Were the state authorities sleeping and waiting for the directives to be issued to the poor public when the COVID was at its peak. No one would press charges on any government official or strike the arbitrary difference with their attitude and the respective Article 21 being completely ignored.
It is to be said with utmost despair that our constitution failed to even ensure the basic human right to live in good health with the government flouting the norms and busy renovating their future. It is high time they realize that achieving country goals must be a secondary subject because of public health.
Sure, elections have to be held on time. But when they are being conducted in the middle of a life-threatening pandemic, there is absolutely no justification for crowded rallies and massive roadshows. And yet, despite the Election Commission`s rap on the knuckles, as mild as it may have been, no politician seems keen on allowing their responsible streak to take over by doing away with mega shows of strength.
Clearly, elected officials are unconcerned about the interests of those who vote for them. Any political leader or party that proudly preside over massive rallies should be ashamed of themselves.
 (1984) 3 SCC 161  Shruti Menon and Jack Goodman, “India Covid crisis: Did election rallies help spread virus?” April 29, 2021; https://www.bbc.com/news/56858980  1989 AIR 2039  (1996) 2 SCC 682  The Print, Ruhi Tewari “Poll rallies to Kumbh Mela — Modi-Shah’s conscience must take a look at latest Covid surge” 14 April 2021; https://theprint.in/opinion/politricks/poll-rallies-to-kumbh-mela-modi-shahs-conscience-must-take-a-look-at-latest-covid-surge/639526/