Allahabad HC notice to SEC on 135 teachers’ death on poll duty

The Allahabad High Court has issued notices to Uttar Pradesh State Election Commission (UPSEC), seeking an explanation on why it failed to check non-compliance of Covid guidelines during multiple phases of panchayat elections.

Taking cognizance of reported deaths of 135 teachers, shiksha mitras and investigators assigned panchayat election duty, Allahabad High Court, on Tuesday, issued the notices.

The court further asked why action should not be taken against the state poll panel and its officials and why those responsible for Covid violations should not be prosecuted.

Hearing a PIL on Covid care, a division bench comprising Justice Siddhartha Varma and Justice Ajit Kumar further directed the State Election Commission to ‘take immediately measures in remaining phases of panchayat elections to ensure Covid guidelines are complied with, else action would be taken against officials involved in the election process’.

While passing the directives, the court observed, “It is reported that during recent phases of panchayat elections, Covid guidelines were violated. It appears that neither police nor the State Election Commission did anything to save people on election duty from getting infected by the virus.”

On deaths due to oxygen shortage, the court observed, “If after seven decades of attaining freedom with so many heavy industries in place, we are unable to provide oxygen to our citizens, it is a matter of shame.”

While observing that the public health system is unable to cater to needs of the people, the court directed government hospitals in Lucknow, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Agra, Kanpur, Gorakhpur and Jhansi to display health bulletins twice a day, apprising people on oxygen saturation levels of patients to avoid attendants visiting the hospitals.

“The situation in major cities of Uttar Pradesh is chaotic. As history of past pandemics tell us, those who are resourceful will survive and the others may die for want of proper healthcare,” the court observed.

The court directed the government to take urgent remedial measures and observed, “We make it clear that we will not tolerate paperwork or public announcements to show the account of steps taken and its sufficiency.

“It’s an open secret that the government had gone complacent due to weakening of the virus by 2020-end and got involved in other activities, including panchayat elections. Had it been vigilant, it would have prepared itself to face the onslaught of the second wave.

“Posterity would never forgive us, if we remain oblivious to the real public health issues and let people die for want of adequate healthcare.”