Constitutional body powerless

first_imgThe Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has been taken lightly in many instances. Political leaders have crossed the line and become recipients of ensuing notices issued by the Election Commission (EC). Amongst the several instances reported, one stands out as utterly intolerable in India’s democratic narrative. Hate speeches by politicos during campaigns have been subject to abject criticism. Statements from BSP chief Mayawati and UP CM Yogi, in particular, made it to the apex court’s bench where an irked Chief Justice of India asked the poll body about the action initiated in the whole matter. To Ranjan Gogoi (CJI), other judges, courtroom and people’s astonishment, EC apprised the court of its powerlessness in this regard. It asserted how there is a procedure to be followed when MCC is flouted wherein a notice is issued and an advisory follows with a police complaint being the extent of punitive measures. Disappointed, the Supreme Court has demanded an explanation from EC on its “powerless” and “toothless” remark, asking an EC official to be present for the proceedings today. The Supreme Court will examine in detail the issue of the ECI’s powers to deal with hate and defamatory election speeches, and violations of the Model Code of Conduct. But EC’s extent of power, as per the petitioner’s lawyer, is mismatched. Under Article 324, EC does have powers to act strictly in this matter which has further convinced the apex court to subject EC’s powers to scrutiny. The petition filed by NRI Harpreet Mansukhani seemingly represents the average Indian dissent over the increase in hate and divisive speeches in the name of religion in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019. Much to everyone’s disappointment, hate speeches so far have carried a sense of impunity. And, EC’s powerless claim on the issue further aggravates the situation. As per the petition filed, communalism of Indian politics and caste-based parties were a “great threat to the spirit of the Constitution” and so the petition called for strict action against political leaders and party representatives spreading hatred on religious and caste lines. It also requests the court to constitute a committee headed by a former apex court judge to closely watch the election process and check the fairness of the EC. While the petition pronounces the concerns of million voters, it also takes a dig at what more can be done in this regard. Also Read – A compounding difficultyMeanwhile, EC post-hearing ordered a 48-hour and 72-hour prohibition for Mayawati and Yogi respectively in regard to their violation of MCC by asserting communal remarks. Both the leaders have been barred from holding public meetings, road shows, public speeches, interviews and use of social media. EC’s haphazard order is likely to be mentioned today in the hearing but will it hold as punitive enough is an important concern. This has larger implications on India’s democratic machinery. The word secular imbibed by our forefathers in the Constitution has been mocked by those who want to run the nation with the very Constitution by their side. Hate speeches are detrimental to the democratic values of this nation as they wither the fabric of our society. The Supreme Court’s scrutiny of EC is constructive as it may yield directives which EC will be obligated to enforce. It could not be as drastic as cancelling of candidature but it might be more severe than a few hours of ban from any political activity regarding campaigns. The apex court’s verdict here will be instrumental in reinvigorating MCC’s status which has, so far, been reduced to classroom rules. EC on its part acted swiftly to ensure a reply today in the court but the issue here is not over compliance of orders by SC but rather over its duty as a constitutional body to protect the interests of voters and hold elections in a free and fair manner. Today’s proceedings will be decisive in establishing measures to deal with political parties who drag religion and caste in political campaigns. It is important to remember that such ploys by parties and candidates not only incite communal, sentiments but also insult the secularism this country holds sacred. If hate speeches are not punished it may have severe ramifications causing instability to the ongoing elections.last_img

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