In the line of fire for casting aspersions on the neutrality of the Election Commission, the BJP on Friday said criticism should be perceived as a means of rectifying the system.
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley debunked the unwritten code that institution created by the constitution cannot be criticised in his blog. “Criticism is a way of life. Criticism can be intended to put the institution to notice that either the current incumbent or future successors correct the error into which the institution has fallen. Courts, Election Commission, Prime Ministers, Council of Ministers, Parliament and bodies like the CAG are all creations of the Constitution. They are manned by men either selected or elected. History is a witness to the monumental errors that some of them have committed,” he said.
“Where does one get the proposition that merely because you are a creation of the Constitution, there is immunity from criticism,” he said and citing examples of England where the Law Lords have held that even judgements of courts can be criticised.
Closer home, he cited the examples of editors S. Mulgaonkar and Shyam Lal who criticised Judges and the judgement in the Habeas Corpus case delivered during the Emergency. “They accused the court of timidity. They were charged for contempt. The contempt notice was discharged after a hearing. The Supreme Court held that the intention of Mulgaonkar and Shyam Lal was to strengthen the institution rather than weaken it and hence there was no contempt,” Mr. Jaitley wrote.
The BJP leader who was at the forefront of the criticism against the EC on Thursday, said he has in the past led a campaign against a member of the Election Commission on grounds of lack of impartiality. “The Chief Election Commissioner was asked to report on a petition signed by Members of Parliament. He upheld my charges. The Congress government in whose favour the bias was alleged refused to process the recommendation of the CEC.”
Defending the BJP’s criticism of the EC, Mr. Jaitely said he and the party’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi have “rightly criticised” the Election Commission for failure to check booth capturing.
“I am convinced that to deny Mr. Modi the right to hold a rally in his constituency is both unfair and a denial of a right to campaign. Both the Returning Officer and the Election Commission have been rightly criticised for this blunder so that in future their successors do not fall into the same error. I do not subscribe to a vague notion of self censorship based on an inter-institutional courtesy,” he said.