Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been barred from campaigning for the next three days for his communal comments by the Election Commission, which recently faced opposition allegations that it is soft on leaders of the ruling party violating the Model Code of Conduct. The commission also took action against Mayawati, barring her from campaigning for 48 hours for her provocative speech in Deoband. In 2014, the Commission took action against BJP chief Amit Shah and Samajwadi Party's Azam Khan for hate speech. Its action this time came on a day the Supreme Court pulled it up for failing to take action in cases of Model Code violation and questioning if it was even aware of its powers to force errant political leaders to fall in line. Within a couple of hours, the poll body -- which earlier issued notices to Yogi Adiyanath and Mayawati -- ordered a ban, invoking special powers under Article 324 of the Constitution.
The Election Commission on Monday barred BSP chief Mayawati and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from campaigning in the Lok Sabha elections for 48 and 72 hours respectively.
While the action against Mayawati came for violating the Model Code of Conduct when she asked Muslims at a rally in Saharanpur to vote in favour of the SP-BSP-RLD combine, Adityanath was barred over his “green virus” and “Ali and Bajrang Bali” comments.
“The Commission, under Article 324 of the Constitution and other powers enabling in this behalf, bars him from holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows and interviews, public utterances in media (electronic, print, social media) in connection with ongoing elections for 72 hours from 6 a.m. on April 16 (Tuesday),” the Election Commission order on Adityanath said.
In a separate order, the poll panel censured Mayawati and “strongly condemned the impugned statements made by her”.
It said she would also be barred from holding any public meetings, processions, rallies, road shows and interviews, public utterance in media related to elections for 48 hours.
The Commission said that it was convinced that both leaders had made “highly provocative” speeches which had the tone and tenor to “aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred between different religious communities”. It added that the two leaders had also violated provisions of the model code by making appeals to secure votes on religious lines.
The poll panel said that being senior leaders, Adityanath and Mayawati should have desisted from making statements that have the undertone and propensity to polarise the elections, which is not confined to the constituency only where the statement is made, but to the other parts as well, due to fast dissemination of information in the digital age.
“The Commission observes that being the Chief Minister of a state, Yogi Adityanath has an added responsibility to not only uphold the basic tenets, including secularism, of the Constitution of India but also to display the same in his appearances/meetings/speeches as well,” it added.
The Election Commission had on April 11 issued notices to both Mayawati and Adityanath for violating the model code of conduct.
While the BSP leader had urged the Muslim community to vote only for SP-BSP-RLD alliance candidates, the Chief Minister had said that if the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party had faith in Ali, “we have faith in ‘Bajrangbali’”.
The poll panel had also asked Adityanath to explain his comment calling the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) a “virus” and saying that the Congress was infected with this “green virus”.
The Supreme Court had on Monday told the Election Commission to respond immediately to hate speeches after the poll panel said it was “toothless” and “powerless” when the model code of conduct was violated.
In a sharp jibe at the Election Commission counsel, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said: “This is something you are duty bound to do. You have to be prompt, you have to act immediately. You can’t drag it.”
The court agreed to examine the statements made by BSP chief Mayawati, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and others.
A bench of Chief Justice Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna put the matter for consideration on Tuesday. The court sought the presence of the Election Commission official during the hearing.
Taking up a petition filed by NRI Harpreet Mansukhani, the bench sought to know from advocate Amit Sharma, appearing for the EC, regarding the nature of action that shall be initiated against the politicians for alleged hate speeches or statements seeking votes on the basis of religion or caste.
The Election Commission informed the court that its power was circumscribed and so it could only issue notice, then an advisory and lodge a criminal complaint on repeated violations.
The counsel for the poll body said it was “toothless” and “powerless” against hate and religious speeches made during the elections.
The apex court said that then it was appropriate to examine the scope of powers of the poll panel that is also a constitutional body.
The EC counsel said that in cases of complaints, it issues notice and seeks reply regarding the violation of the model code of conduct.
“We ask them to be careful and issue an advisory.”
The counsel replied that it does not have the power to de-recognise or disqualify the offending person. And if the candidate continues to violate the Model Code of Conduct, then the poll body can file a complaint.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioner, contended that the Election Commission already had vast power under Article 324 of the Constitution.
The bench enquired from the EC counsel what action did it take against Adityanath on his statement on ‘Modiji ki Sena’ (Modi’s Army).
The EC counsel said the matter was closed after his explanation but there were two matters wherein both Mayawati and Adityanath had to respond by April 12.
The petitioner pleaded before the court that it should take strict action against political parties if their spokespersons or leaders made speeches or make remarks in media specifically on religion and caste.
The petitioner requested the court to set up a committee under the chairmanship of a retired Supreme Court judge to monitor the election process and the Election Commission.
The petitioner informed the court that EC, in a historical perspective, was yet to act against political parties, although, under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, this was permissible.
The Supreme Court also observed that the “chowkidar chor hai” comment made by Rahul Gandhi in the context of Rafale fighter jet issue had been “incorrectly attributed” to it and demanded an explanation from the Congress President by April 22.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna posted the matter for hearing on April 23.
“We make it clear that this Court had no occasion to record any view or finding or make any observation as allegedly attributed to the Court by the respondent (Rahul Gandhi) inasmuch as what was decided by this Court was a purely legal question of admissibility of certain documents to which objections were raised by the learned Attorney General,” CJI Gogoi said in the order.
“Having clarified the matter, we deem it proper to ask the respondent (Gandhi) for his explanation which will be laid before us on or before 22.04.2019.
“We further observe that no views, observations or findings should be attributed to the Court in a political address to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the Court,” the court said in its order uploaded on its website in the evening.
The Supreme Court’s directive came on a contempt plea filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Meenakshi Lekhi against Gandhi, who had said over a week back that the top court had “accepted” that there was some form of corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal and that “chowkidar chor hai”, a veiled reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Gandhi had made the comments after the Supreme Court agreed to hear afresh a case related to the Rafale deal, rejecting the government’s contention that the secret documents concerning the agreement had been stolen and published in some newspapers without authorization.
The top court on Monday clarified that its decision on April 10 to hear the points raised over the documents was solely on a legal question regarding admissibility of certain documents as evidence, which was objected by the Attorney General.
It clarified that it’s recent order “had no occasion” which might have indicated to Gandhi to make any such comments.
On April 10, the Supreme Court had said the petitions filed by former Union Ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, along with activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, seeking review of its December 14 judgment in the Rafale matter, would be heard on merits and that it would look into the documents published.
After Gandhi’s comments, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had attacked him and said he was on the “verge” of contempt of court by claiming that the top court had said, “chowkidar chor hai”.
Welcoming the Election Commission’s (EC) curbs on BSP chief Mayawati and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s campaigning, the Congress asked if the poll panel would now act against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The EC has pushed the pause button on hate speech campaigners! Vindicates our stand that hate campaigners like Adityanath should be barred from campaigning. Acting on our complaint, the EC shut the mouths of those spreading hatred,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a tweet. “Will the EC act against Modiji, now?” he asked.
The BJP meanwhile asked the Election Commission (EC) to take “serious cognisance” of Rahul Gandhi’s “chowkidar chor hai” statement after the Supreme Court demanded an explanation from the Congress President for wrongly attributing the said comment in the context of Rafale fighter jets issue to the apex court.
Addressing a press conference here, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Gandhi of lying and said while the Indian Constitution gives every citizen the freedom to speak, it does not give freedom to “lie and abuse”.
“Please explain to the country why you lied and why you attributed that lie to the Supreme Court. When will Rahul Gandhi stop shameless showering of abuses on our leaders?” he said. (IANS)