EC puts curbs on Yogi, Mayawati campaign

New Delhi, April 15
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".

Act immediately, SC tells EC on hate speeches 

 The Supreme Court 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 power to de-recognise or disqualify the offending person. And if the candidate continues to to violate the Model Code of Conduct, then the poll body can file a compliant.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioner, contended that the Election Commission already had vast power under the 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.

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