Illustration by Soham Sen |ThePrint
Illustration by Soham Sen |ThePrint
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The Supreme Court has deferred the hearing on Congress’ plea of model code violation against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. The CJI-led bench issued a notice to the Election Commission and said it will next hear the matter Thursday. The EC also met today to discuss poll code violation complaints.

ThePrint asks: EC delaying action on high-profile Modi-Shah justified or is it buying BJP campaign time?


Not right to constantly raise doubts and point fingers at a constitutional body like EC

Narendra Taneja
National Spokesperson, BJP

The Election Commission is an independent constitutional body. It has nothing to do with the government of India.

We have gone to the EC ourselves several times on many issues. For instance, on the incidents of Trinamool Congress unleashing violence in West Bengal during the Lok Sabha elections. Frankly, we are a bit frustrated because the EC has not taken any action on most of our complaints.

It took no action against Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is touring the country telling lies on the Rafale deal and saying “chowkidar chor hai”. We have raised these issues but our complaints are languishing without the EC acting on them.

Also, for the EC, every issue is important. It has nothing to do with the stature of the person or the office s/he holds, which means it doesn’t matter whether the complaint is against the chief minister or the prime minister.

We respect the EC as an institution and the autonomy it enjoys under the Constitution. It is not right to constantly raise doubts against it and point fingers at it. Like the opposition is doing with the EVMs – it is constantly blaming a constitutional body on the functioning of the EVMs. But when something works out for the opposition, then it stops blaming the EC altogether. Now that they are sensing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, they are back to blaming the EC again. The Congress has already conceded defeat.


Also read: Why EC rejected 70 requests & queries about model code from Modi govt, states


Modi-Shah act as if the model code of conduct does not apply to them

Vinayak Dalmia
Spokesperson, Congress

The Congress party welcomes the steps taken by the Supreme Court in issuing notice to the Election Commission in the Modi-Shah case. We are confident that justice will be eventually served and the truth shall prevail.

The EC had been sitting on these complaints of poll code violation against PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah for days, almost as if it was waiting for elections to get over (on 23 May). While the EC takes note of other complaints, there seems to be an eerie silence when it comes to acting against Modi and Amit Shah. The EC suddenly starts delaying the matter and doesn’t act on complaints against the two leaders.

The Congress’ position is clear in the petition – “inaction” by the EC on complaints against top BJP leaders was “a sign of invidious discrimination” and was “arbitrary, capricious and impermissible” as it was destructive of the integrity of the electoral process.

Both Modi and Amit Shah are guilty of hate speeches and political propaganda in the name of defence forces. This is an open and shut case. The Modi-Shah duo act as if the model code of conduct or the Representation of People Act, 1951 do not apply to them.

There is a reason these rules exist – to prevent exploitation by those in high offices and preserve the sanctity of the electoral process.


Also read: Should EC ensure that CBI, ED & I-T dept aren’t used as political tools during elections?


EC should be uniformly applying the model code otherwise people will attribute motive

P.K. Malhotra
Former Union law secretary

We are aware of how institutions work these days and there is a possibility that the Election Commission is deliberately delaying acting on certain complaints. Sufficient evidence is available on the basis of which the EC could have taken a decision on whether the model code of conduct has been violated or not.

So far as complaints regarding other politicians are concerned, the EC has acted quickly.

The EC should be uniformly applying the model code of conduct and taking action uniformly as well. It is fully within its powers to do so. If they are not doing so, or specifically delaying action, then people will attribute motive to the EC and question if it’s impartial at all. People will draw their own conclusions.

There are no cases too high-profile or too small or big. The EC has to deal with two questions: Is it a violation of law or is it a violation of the model code of conduct? In case it is the latter, the EC can issue warnings but not take legal action.

It is an administrative process that makes sure that people’s faith in the EC is not shaken and that free and fair elections take place.


Criticism against EC is an opportunity to push for reform rather than play victim

Sanya Dhingra
Principal correspondent, ThePrint

The delay by the Election Commission in taking action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah has rightly raised eyebrows, with the matter finally reaching the Supreme Court. However, to reduce the matter to figure out whether the EC is trying to buy time for the BJP or not would be to miss the larger problems impeding the autonomy of the poll body.

For decades now, India’s Parliament has remained silent over how election commissioners should be appointed, thereby allowing the government of the day to appoint retired bureaucrats of their own choice for the constitutional positions. While the opposition often attacks the EC for working under the ruling party’s pressure, few politicians push the government to lay down a transparent procedure for the appointment of commissioners.

Moreover, even after their appointment, the EC – consisting of three members, including the chief election commissioner (CEC) – is not fully impervious to political pressure. While the CEC can be removed only through an impeachment motion (just like a Supreme Court judge), there is no such constitutional protection for the other two election commissioners.

As a result, the EC enjoys only partial autonomy as a unit. Subsequent governments have failed to act on these fundamental reforms to strengthen the institution. It is easy for the opposition to play victim when not in power. However, the cries of victimhood are unlikely to yield much when it fails to engage in the tedious, often boring, process of pushing for reform when in power.


Also read: Modi ‘in touch’ with 40 TMC MLAs in Bengal: Election boast or open threat of horse-trading?


 

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  1. Two respectful suggestions for the future. One, do not elongate the general election campaign so much. It is coming out of our ears now. Neither educative, nor edifying. Second, the appointment of the ECs, like the CAG and a number of other important posts where autonomy of thought is imperative, should be by a thoughtfully assembled Collegium, not simply by executive fiat. With a complete ban on any sort of public or political appointment after completion of term.

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