Wednesday, 5 October, 2022
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This is how EC could counter SC over revoking Kamal Nath’s star campaigner status

The EC’s 30 October order, which cited 'repeated violations of the Model Code of Conduct' by Kamal Nath, was challenged by the former chief minister in the Supreme Court.

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New Delhi: Harmonious interpretation of law and the Election Commission’s overriding powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to ensure free and fair elections, and precedent — these are the arguments that the poll watchdog could present to the Supreme Court to justify its order revoking senior Congress leader Kamal Nath’s star campaigner status for the Madhya Pradesh bypolls. 

The EC’s 30 October order, which cited “repeated violations of the Model Code of Conduct” by Nath, was challenged by the former chief minister in the Supreme Court. As the court stayed the order Monday, Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde said, “Who has given you power to delist a candidate from being a star campaigner or a leader of the party (under the law)?”

An EC official said Monday that the watchdog will file a reply in the matter at the earliest. The EC’s argument will now just settle a legal question kicked up by the CJI’s remark and will have no impact on the MP bypolls, as voting ended Tuesday.

The EC, it is gathered, could cite the legal principle known as “harmonious interpretation of law” to justify the order. 

According to this principle, when two different legal provisions or laws deal with the same aspect or have a similar aim, the two can be interpreted in such a way that their effects are “harmonised”.

In this case, on the one hand, Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act deals with the accounting of election campaigns, and allows a political party to choose its own star campaigners. On the other hand, Article 324 of the Constitution identifies the EC as the highest authority when it comes to elections in the country, having the power of “superintendence, direction and control of elections”. 

Since both the provisions have a common aim of ensuring an ethical electoral campaign, their interpretations can be “harmonised” in a way that their spirit — in this case, to ensure the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct — is protected. 

The EC may also cite precedent as it is not the first time that the poll panel has revoked the star campaigner status of a candidate. 

Just earlier this year, during the Delhi assembly elections, the EC had directed the BJP to strip Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma of star campaigner status after they made provocative speeches on the campaign trail.

Lastly, the EC could argue that the revocation of Nath’s star campaigner status would have had a “demonstrative effect” on election candidates. 

If a leader has star campaigner status, they can campaign in any constituency during an election at the expense of the political party, and not the candidate. 

According to EC rules, there is a cap on the expenses of candidates, but not on what a party can spends. This creates an incentive for different candidates to want star campaigners to campaign in their constituencies.


Also Read: Kamal Nath runs Congress show in MP bypolls, Digvijaya away from spotlight — just like in 2018


‘Illegal, arbitrary’

In its order revoking Nath’s star campaigner status, the EC had said it was “for repeated violation of Model Code of Conduct and for completely disregarding the advisory issued to him”.

Moving the SC to get it quashed, Nath described the order as “is illegal, arbitrary, unreasoned, passed in complete violation of basic canons of natural justice and in negation of fair play”.


Also Read: MP bypoll results will surely teach some humility to Kamal Nath, says Jyotiraditya Scindia


 

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