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The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Election Commission of India (ECI) on the petition filed by Congress MP Sushmita Dev against the alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by PM Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.
The Bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi with Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph heard the petition at the end of the Board after a brief confusion in the listing of the case.
The Court, in a very brief hearing, issued notice to the poll panel and stated that the Commission would have the liberty to pass any appropriate orders that it deems fit. The Court has now listed the matter for hearing on Thursday.
The petition filed by Dev, through Advocate Sunil Fernandes, prays that the Court issue a direction to the ECI to expeditiously decide on the complaints pending against Modi and Shah before it. As per the petition, the ECI has been slow to act on multiple complaints concerning “frequent and habitual violations” of the MCC by Modi and Shah. As stated in the petition,
“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 Respondent/ECI.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister in blatant violation of the MCC held a rally on the day of polling in Gujarat on April 23rd, 2019 i.e. date of voting in the third phase of the election.”
The petitioner has contended that multiple complaints have been lodged, highlighting violations of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 by Modi and Shah. However, the ECI has not responded to any of these representations, she argues. In this backdrop, it is submitted,
“The lack of decision despite cogent evidences, representations and exhortations to the Respondent/ECI demonstrates abdication and indecision and a complete absence of justice, in ensuring a level playing field in ensuing General Elections for the Lok Sabha. The inactions, omissions and commissions by the Respondent/ECI are in complete and direct violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution and which are impeding free, fair and unbiased General Elections, 2019.“
The petitioner goes on to argue that the ECI has been selective in its censures when it comes to responding to complaints against Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. As stated in her plea,
“Such brazen violations are neither minor nor procedural, in any manner. It is matter of record that other candidates who have been in breach of the electoral laws including the MCC have had strictures and directions passed against them including ban from campaigning for 72 hours. However, the Respondents are guarded and oblivious to the comprehensive Representations/ Complaints (duly supported by the cogent evidence) that have been filed by the Petitioner’s party against the Prime Minister and Mr. Amit Shah.“
The slow response of the ECI in this regard is also contended to be a tacit endorsement of Modi’s and Shah’s conduct, in effect giving them a clean chit despite MCC violations.
“That the Petitioner herein submits that the delay of more than 3 weeks in decision making or the absence of a decision, are in fact decisions in themselves. It would not be overstating that inaction by the Respondents is a tacit endorsement of the statements and clean chit to the individuals whose statements and actions are ex facie in violation of the provisions of the RP Act and the Election Rules 1961 including the MCC…
...‘non-decision’ is, in fact, a decision exonerating those complained against. Since the complaint and cause of action vis-à-vis the Election Commission becomes redundant once the Elections are concluded.”
It is contended that there cannot be two sets of rules – one for the Prime Minister and for the BJP President and another for the rest of the candidates contesting an election. Further, it is argued that such “deliberate and willful violations, when unaddressed by the Respondent, send a message of endorsement, not just to the offenders, but to all party functionaries down the line.”
The matter was mentioned yesterday by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi following which the Court agreed to hear the matter today.
Read the Order: