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Kamal Nath moves Supreme Court against EC’s decision to revoke his ‘star campaigner’ status

Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath. File   | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and Congress leader Kamal Nath on Saturday moved the Supreme Court against the decision of the Election Commission (EC) to remove his name from the list of ‘star campaigners’ for his party.

On October 30, the top poll body had found Mr. Nath guilty of violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) in place for the byelections to 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh scheduled on November 3. The EC had revoked his name on the basis of a complaint from the BJP that Mr. Nath derogatorily referred to its candidate, Imarti Devi, as an “item” during a campaign rally at Dabra in Gwalior district.

Unequal order

On Saturday, Mr. Nath, represented by advocates Varun K. Chopra and Gurtejpal Singh, asked why the EC had remained mum when BJP leaders had used “uncivilised, crass and abusive language” against him during the campaign.

“On October 6, Shri. Kamal Patel in Ujjain called the petitioner a ‘frog’ in a well and said that the petitioner was sitting over the funds of farmers like a ‘snake’... On October 23, Shri. Kailash Vijayvargiya of BJP at Muraina called the Petitioner elusive like ‘Raavan’...” the petition said.

Mr. Nath, through Mr. Chopra, cited several other instances of name-calling.

“For the sake of brevity and after taking into considering the uncivilised, crass and abusive language used by the leaders of BJP for the petitioner and Indian National Congress, the petitioner considers it would not be apt to reproduce many more instances of use of unparliamentary language by BJP leaders,” he said. 

Role of party

The petition said it was the prerogative of his party and not the EC to remove his name as star campaigner.

“Section 77(1) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 read with Guidelines for Star Campaigners issued by the Election Commission, from time to time, makes selection/revocation of ‘star campaigners’ the sole prerogative of the political party,” the petition said.

Mr. Nath said, “Honour, dignity and safety of women have been one of the paramount pillars of his work as a Chief Minister, Union Minister and Member of Parliament since 1980 onwards.”

There is not a single allegation of misconduct or ill-tempered remark against women attributed to him, he said.

He urged the court to frame “appropriate guidelines for speeches during campaigning by star campaigners/ campaigners, keeping in mind the right to freedom of speech and expression and concept of democratic elections”.

Mr. Nath said the revocation of his name from the star campaigner list impedes “the principle of free and fair and level playing field in elections”. 

The petition explained how the Election Commission had first issued notice on October 21 to Mr. Nath on a complaint by BJP submitted on October 18 for violating the Model Code of Conduct at the Dabra rally.

Mr. Nath had replied on October 22 that the remarks were “completely misunderstood without context and highlighted that there was no malice or intent to disrespect on his part”. He also said he had regretted the remark and issued a clarification the very next day.

On October 26, the EC held that Mr. Nath had violated its code of conduct advisory and “advised him to not use such words or statements during the period of Model Code of Conduct”.

However, on October 30, the EC revoked his ‘star campaigner’ status from the list submitted by the Indian National Congress on October 19. 

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 3:02:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kamal-nath-moves-supreme-court-against-ecs-decision-to-revoke-his-star-campaigner-status/article32990936.ece

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