The Kerala High Court on Wednesday, May 19, refused to set aside the swearing in ceremony of the second Pinarayi Vijayan-led government, which is planned to take place with the participation of 500 people amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Considering a plea filed against the conduct of physical swearing in ceremony,the High Court urged the government to reduce the number of participants.
The swearing-in ceremony will be held at the Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram. Chief Minister designate Pinarayi Vijayan and the government is drawing severe criticism from many quarters on the decision to hold the event.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly, said that efforts are to be taken to ensure that all COVID-19 safety measures are to be enforced during the ceremony, especially as the Kerala government is “at a forerunner in COVID-19 management”, Livelaw reported. The court also observed that efforts must be made to limit the number of attendees at the ceremony, and that family members and spouses of newly-elected Members of Legislative Assembly, except those of designated ministers, need not attend it. Political parties were also directed to take a decision as to whether all members should be in attendance.Only those officials directly involved in the ceremony shall be invited. The court also observed that states like West Bengal, which has more number of legislators in the Assembly than Kerala, held the swearing-in ceremony, with a much smaller crowd.
The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front had initially planned to allow the participation of 700-800 people in the swearing-in ceremony. However, the number was reduced to 500 after the Indian Medical Association opposed the move. Many continue to oppose the LDF’s decision to conduct the event in a district which is under triple lockdown. Talking to the media on Monday, Pinarayi Vijayan had even stated that 500 is not a huge number considering the event and the venue at which it will be held. The Central Stadium can accommodate upto 10,000 people, he said.
Notably, legal experts have opined that Constitutionally, there is nothing in the Constitution that mandates how many people should be in attendance at the swearing-in ceremony, or that it could not be held virtually.
Actor Parvathy Thiruvothu was among those who criticised the physical swearing-in ceremony. "There is no doubt that the state government has done incredible work and continues to do so to aid the frontline workers and help battle this pandemic in a very responsible way. Which is why it is shocking and unacceptable that a crowd of 500 is deemed “not that much” by the @CMOKerala for the swearing in ceremony on 20th," she said in a tweet on Tuesday, May 18.
Meanwhile, the opposition, Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has reportedly decided to stay away from the event.