New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) has formally taken on former chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, accusing him of “selective amnesia” over his criticism of the EC that it was not acting on poll conduct violations.
In a letter written by Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena, the EC has stated that no action was taken by the commission under Sections 123 and 125 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 or Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code during Quraishi’s tenure as CEC.
“A list of MCC notices issued and action taken by Commission during the period when you were holding the office of CEC is enclosed,” the letter says.
“You may kindly like to peruse the same. It would be seen from the enclosed list that no action was taken by the then Commission during this period under sections 123 and 125 of the RP Act-1951/153 IPC 1860.
“It is rather ironic as how far selective amnesia can mislead the readers!!” the letter adds.
In its letter the EC has also said, “A brief note on the historicity of Model Code of Conduct rather eloquently described as ‘toothless’ in article on 8.2.2020 in one of the leading newspapers of the country is being enclosed for your kind perusal.”
In his letter, Saxena has also informed Quraishi that the EC is planning to publish a compilation of actions taken against MCC violations in the last 20 years.
ThePrint contacted Quraishi for a response but is yet to receive one. This copy will be updated when he responds.
Section 123 of the RP Act defines aggravating hatred between communities as “corrupt practices” and Section 125 of the RP Act prescribes punitive measures for these practices. Section 153 of the IPC seeks to punish those “who indulge in wanton vilification or attacks upon the religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc of any particular group or class or upon the founders and prophets of a religion”.
The Quraishi piece
On 8 February, a day before the Delhi elections, which witnessed a deeply polarising campaign, Quraishi wrote an article in The Indian Express criticising the poll panel for “not going the distance in punishing the hate speech”.
Quraishi served as the CEC from July 2010 to June 2012.
His article states that several statements made during the campaign not only violated the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), but also the Representation of People Act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
“What is baffling, however, is that if the Commission had found them guilty of offences deserving punishment, why did it fall short of filing FIRs?” Quraishi wrote in the piece, which has been attached by the EC in its letter to him.
The EC has also pulled out data of MCC violations from Quraishi’s tenure to corroborate its point. It claims that during his tenure, only nine showcause notices for MCC violations were issued in 11 state and union territory elections.
In these cases, the EC adds, advisories and warnings were issued in five and two cases respectively, while two cases were simply closed. Further, the EC did not lodge an FIR in any of these cases — a criticism mounted by Quraishi on the current commission.
Some of these cases involved serious poll conduct violations. For example, former union minister Salman Khurshid had in the 2012 Uttar Pradesh elections announced 9 per cent reservation for minorities within the existing OBC quota of 27 per cent.
While the EC found him guilty of MCC violation, it did not take any action against Khurshid after he wrote a letter to EC “regretting” his announcement.