The Supreme Court on Monday expressed serious displeasure after the Election Commission (EC) conveyed that it has limited power to act against leaders like BSP supremo Mayawati and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who made statements along religious lines and violated the model code of conduct. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, while taking note of EC's contention that it can merely issue notice, an advisory and then lodge criminal complaint on repeated violations of model code of conduct, summoned an official of the poll panel, who is well versed with the issue, to appear before it tomorrow.
The apex court took into account the EC's statement that notices were issued on a speech made by Mayawati asking Muslims to vote and Yogi Adityanath on 'Ali-Bajrang Bali'. The Bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, pulled up the EC for not acting against them for their statements on religion and hate speeches.
"We would like to examine the matter. The representative of Election Commission should appear in the court tomorrow at 10.30 am," said the Bench. The court was hearing a PIL seeking strict action against political parties if their spokespersons and representatives deliver speeches and make remarks in media on religion and caste.
During the hearing, the EC told the top court that it had issued three notices on violation of the model code of conduct and the first notice was against Adityanath, which has been closed. The second notice was against Mayawati, which she was to reply by April 12 but she has not replied yet, the EC said. Chief Justice Gogoi said this is something the EC is duty bound to act on and it has to get into action immediately.
"What have you done when she (Mayawati) has not replied? What are you impart to do in law?" asked the top court. The counsel appearing for EC replied that it issued notices and then an advisory. On repeated violation of model code of conduct, a criminal complaint can be filed, the EC counsel said. "We can't disqualify them (politicians). We can't even derecognise these political parties," the EC counsel said.
"That's it? You (Election Commission) know your power? For violating model code of conduct, all you can do is issue advisory?" Chief Justice Gogoi observed and said the court will examine the issue relating to the power of EC in model code of conduct violations by politicians. The Bench then told the counsel appearing for the petitioner that EC says "we are toothless, we are powerless, we issue notices, then advisory and on the repeated violation, we file a complaint, this is their power".
Earlier, the top court had sought the EC's reply on the PIL filed by an NRI from Sharjah, Harpreet Mansukhani. The petitioner also urged the top court to constitute a bench headed by former Supreme Court judges "to keep a close watch on the entire election process and check the fairness" of the EC during the Lok Sabha polls.
The petitioner pointed out that the spokespersons or media representatives of political parties/politicians who are not contesting the elections use hate speeches on TV channels and social media platform based on caste or religion and easily escape action since they usually do not contest elections. "The concept of secular democracy promised under the Indian Constitution for the purity of elections is mandatory in order for a Democracy to thrive and succeed. It is a must for the EC and other legislative bodies to be kept free from unhealthy corrupt practices and unhealthy appeals of influence of religion, race, caste, community or language that could have a devastating effect on a country and its Constitution," stated the plea.
"Elections in India are being mutilated under the evil influence of the 'divide and rule policy' through evil influences of caste and religion which has led to communalism of politics which is a major concern for the security of people from the forces within and from forces outside the country. The communalism and caste-based politics have crossed all barriers which can result in an unknown alarmingly dangerous situation." The petitioner also sought strict actions against media houses which use caste or religious lines for the debates.
(With inputs from agencies.)