Congress spokesperson and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Monday appeared for party MP Sushmita Dev in Supreme Court to submit a petition against the Election Commission's clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah in cases of alleged Model Code of Conduct violations during Lok Sabha election campaigns.
Singhvi told the court that five of the six decisions had dissents of an election commissioner, but none of them were supplied to the appealing party and no reason was given for the same. Singhvi said that identical words were used by other politicians against whom the Election Commission had taken action, but Modi and Shah were let off.
According to The Indian Express and NDTV, the poll body's decisions in these cases were not unanimous. The Election Commission comprises Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and election commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra. One officer had reportedly dissented in all these decisions.
Singhvi also urged the apex court to lay down guidelines for action to be taken in such cases so that the poll panel operates in a free and fair manner in future elections.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta has listed the matter for further hearing on Wednesday. Dev will submit documents related to the Election Commission's orders on record in the court for more deliberation on the subject. In her plea, Dev has alleged MCC violations by Modi and Shah over their alleged hate speeches and using armed forces for "political propaganda".
She has alleged that "inaction" by the poll panel on complaints against top BJP leaders was "a sign of invidious discrimination" as also "arbitrary, capricious and impermissible" as it was destructive of the integrity of electoral process.
It has been alleged that BJP leaders have been violating the model code of conduct during the last four weeks and the EC has not taken any decisions on as many as 40 complaints of Congress party. "Since 10 March, the prime minister and Shah, specifically in sensitive areas and states, have ex-facie violated the provisions of the Representation of People's Act and the Conduct of Election Rules and the process, thereof," the plea has claimed.
"It is in public domain that they have indulged in hate speeches, repeatedly used the armed forces for political propaganda, despite a clear prohibition on the same by the EC," Dev has alleged. She has said that she has been constrained to move to the top court to seek direction to the EC "to expeditiously take action on multiple representations/ complaints pending before the EC" against Modi and Shah.
Alleging inaction on the part of EC, the plea said it has not been taking actions "despite cogent evidence" and exhortations to the EC demonstrated "abdication and indecision and a complete absence of justice, in ensuring a level playing field in ensuing general elections". "The inactions, omissions, and commissions by the EC are in complete and direct violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution and which are impeding free, fair and unbiased general elections," the plea has said. It has also referred to the EC's circulars prohibiting parties and candidates from using pictures of armed forces for their political propaganda and using religions.
The plea has said that under the Constitution, the poll panel is the "watchdog of free and fair elections and is duty-bound to circumvent the pressure and ascertain that ensuing elections are free from any impediments in order to uphold the democratic sanctity and fundamental rights of the voter"
The Election Commission had disposed of complaints against Modi and Shah for alleging violating the Model Code of Conduct, giving clean chits to the duo. In April, the Supreme Court had directed the poll body to make a decision on all pending complaints by 6 May, while considering a petition filed by Dev. The Congress leader had said that 11 representations had been made to the Election Commission against Modi and Shah, but the polling authority had made decisions on only two.
The poll panel had given a clean chit to Modi for two of his speeches — one in Latur last month urging first-time voters to dedicate their votes to the Balakot air strikes and the CRPF soldiers killed in the Pulwama attack, and the other in Wardha on 1 April, slamming Congress chief Rahul Gandhi for contesting from Wayanad, a constituency in Kerala where Modi said there were more voters from the minority community.
On 2 May, the Election Commission disposed of the third complaint against Modi, finding no poll code violation in his speech in Barmer in Rajasthan, where he had warned Pakistan, saying India's nuclear arsenal was not meant for Diwali. "Every other day, they used to say 'we have a nuclear button'. What do we have then? Have we kept it for Diwali?" he had said.
On Saturday, it gave Modi clean chit in a complaint filed against him for mentioning Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan's return during an election campaign.
Moreover, Shah's comments in a speech in Nagpur, where he said "Rahul Gandhi is contesting from such a place where it is impossible to say when a procession is taken out, whether it is a procession in India or Pakistan" were also not found objectionable by the Election Commission. This was another reference to Wayanad. None of these orders were uploaded on the official website of the Election Commission, which Singhvi pointed out in court.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: May 06, 2019 14:07:59 IST