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SC Asks EC to Explain Inability to Curb Sectarian Appeals

April 16, 2019 06:51 AM


SC Asks EC to Explain Inability to Curb Sectarian Appeals
SC asks EC official to explain its alleged lack of powers in addressing such cases

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Monday gave the Election Commission an earful after the constitutional body expressed helplessness in reining in those seeking votes in the name of religion and castes. The court ordered that an EC official appear before it on Tuesday to explain its ‘failure to quickly act’ against errant politicians.

“What are you doing? What does the law tell you to? You can’t drag matters. Get into action immediately,” a three-judge bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi told EC standing counsel Amit Sharma. The court’s adverse observations saw the EC impose ban on BSP leader Mayawati and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath from campaigning for 48 hours and 72 hours, respectively.

“Are you saying that you are toothless? You keep all these things away from the court till the last overs,” the CJI observed. “You are saying you can only issue advisories and have no powers? You are duty-bound to act. Why are you not acting quickly?” the CJI demanded to know of the EC counsel. He then demanded that an EC official appear in court to explain the EC’s stand that it lacked teeth in addressing cases involving sectarian appeals to voters during campaigning. The SC move came on a public interest litigation filed by NRI Harpreet Mansukhani demanding that the court set up a committee to keep a watch on the EC.

Earlier, EC’s counsel argued that it did not have the power to disqualify anybody. In case of violations of the model code of conduct, the commission can issue advisories, warning candidates and file FIRs in case of repeat offences, he contended. The EC had a whole procedural framework to deal with model code of conduct violations. “We have issued notices to people... filed FIRs under the procedure,” he said and referred to the case against Adiyanath in which the EC issued him an advisory asking him to refrain from repeating such conduct and closed the case. In another instance, involving BSP leader Ms Mayawati the EC has sought an explanation from her, but she was yet to respond to the notice to her. She was expected to reply by April 12, 2019. There are other such complaints pending, he said.

“If she hasn’t replied what are you going to do? What are you empowered to do? Is it not defiance of the law? Are you aware of your powers,” asked the CJI.


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