23:32 GMT12 June 2021
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    Elections were held in four Indian states and one union territory from 27 March to 29 April. The Election Commission has drawn flak from opposition parties, state high courts and citizens for 'unnecessarily' conducting polls in several phases amid the pandemic.

    The Election Commission of India (ECI) has decided to set up a panel to identify its shortcomings during the recently-held election cycle.

    Elections were held in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry, and the results were announced on 2 May.

    The move came after the body drew widespread criticism from two high courts — the Madras High Court in Tamil Nadu state and the Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh, including for failing to ensure that political parties followed COVID-19 regulations during campaigning.

    "We have to see what kind of recommendations this panel makes and what action the Election Commission takes," Congress party leader Rashid Alvi told Sputnik.

    "Since March, our party has demanded that the election schedule be shortened, and appealed to the ECI to ban the campaign. But nothing bothered them. After the Madras High Court intervention, they banned victory celebrations following the announcement of the election result," he added.

    On Thursday, the Allahabad High Court observed, "The Election Commission, the higher courts and the government failed to fathom the disastrous consequences of permitting elections in a few states and the panchayat election in Uttar Pradesh."

    The 'core committee' headed by ECI Secretary-General Umesh Sinha has been tasked with identifying the gaps in implementation and enforcement among state chief electoral officers and district officials.

    The committee will also look into the need to strengthen the legal and regulatory framework to allow the commission to ensure the more effective compliance of guidelines, including COVID-19 norms.

    The election body has not confirmed how long it will take the committee to submit its report.

    The election body's decision also followed comments made by the Madras High Court, which suggested that "The ECI is singularly responsible for the latest COVID surge and should be booked for murder for not stopping election rallies."


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