The Bombay High Court recently permitted a member of the Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena to organise a body building competition stating that such an activity does not breach the model code of conduct (MCC) imposed by the Election Commission [Vijay Jagannath Salvi vs Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation].
A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and MW Chandwani said that body building is a 'secular' activity and by no stretch of imagination can it aggravate differences between two political parties.
"A body building event is about positivity; about health, about strength, energy and vigour; about spirit of competition. It is something in which any one can participate, irrespective of his caste, creed, religion or political affiliation. In a way, it is a secular and neutral activity and also an activity which promotes overall welfare of the society. Therefore, such an activity cannot be considered to be an activity which aggravates the existing differences between two political parties," the bench observed.
The point that the judges made was that it is only such kind of acts that could be said to be aggravating existing differences or creating mutual hatred or causing tension between different castes and communities.
A body building event, the bench opined, does not fall under any of these categories of acts which are per se obnoxious and unpleasant.
"Organizing a sports event like Body Building Competition, is not something which could be considered from any angle as amounting to aggravating existing differences. It is only those acts which cause annoyance to other group or which tend to insult or humiliate other group or which spread falsehood or canards or which infame religious or communal feelings or which praise one group or community and denigrate other group or community on the ground of caste, religion, community or language would fall within the mischief," the bench said.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by one Vijay Salvi, a member of the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena party, challenging the order of the Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) officers, who revoked a permission granted earlier to organise a body building competition. The officers cited the prevalence of the model code of conduct in the KDMC area.
The civic body contended that as per the general conduct clause of the model code of conduct, the body building competition cannot be allowed as it can create or aggravate the existing differences between the two factions of the Shiv Sena, which are at loggerheads.
The Court, however, opined that the code of conduct does not in any manner impact an event like a body building competition, which is a sport and not an event arousing public feelings or fanning public sentiments.
"A body building competition is not prohibited, as this clause applies to something sought to be done by a political party or a candidate which amounts to aggravating existing differences between the parties or creating mutual hatred or causing tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic," the bench said.
The bench noted that the KDMC officers failed to explain the 'nature' of the differences between both the factions of Shiv Sena and thus rejected the said contention.
"In these circumstances, we find that the information possessed by the officer is his ipse dixit; an unfounded belief; a mere hunch and hence is not something which is in the nature of existing differences," the bench opined.
The judges further noted that the civic body cancelled the permission without giving an opportunity to Salvi to present his case.
"Such abrupt, sudden and one sided cancellation of the permission is arbitrary, to say the least. After all, one must fathom that the organiser has gone ahead with making preparations, issuing invitation cards and thereby incurring some expenses in the matter after having received the permission," the bench said.
In the circumstances, the Court set aside the KDMC communication.