Misquoting judicial orders for electoral gain should be made a corrupt practice: plea in SC

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court to declare misquoting of judicial orders by contesting candidates and political office-bearers for electoral gain as a corrupt practice.

The petition, filed by Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, urged the Supreme Court to frame guidelines against religious, casteist and “fake” statements uttered for electoral capital.

Mr. Upadhyay mentioned Congress party president Rahul Gandhi’s alleged statement ‘chowkidar chor hai’ and its attribution to the April 10 Supreme Court judgment, which had admitted certain published documents for consideration in the review filed in the Rafale deal case. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has sought a response from Mr. Gandhi next week.

The apex court has already barred any such attribution of views, observations or findings to the Supreme Court in political addresses, to the media or in public speeches, “unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the court”.

In his petition, Mr. Upadhyay alleged the Election Commission of India (ECI) was not able to curb hate and communally divisive electoral speeches over the years. Mr. Upadhyay referred to BSP leader Mayawati’s appeal for Muslim votes.

‘Against the dictum of democracy’

“It has been observed, particularly, since 1990, that not only in the Parliament and State Assembly Elections, even in by-elections; religious, casteist and fake statements are made to support particular party and candidate, which is against the basic dictum of democracy and free and fair election in spirit of Article 324 of the Constitution. It offends right to know guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution,” the writ petition submitted.

The petition refers to the recommendations made by the Goswami Committee in its 1990 report to teeth the ECI with powers to “refer any matter for investigation to any agency”; to “prosecute any person who has committed an electoral offence”; and to “appoint a Special Court for the trial of any offence or offences” under the Representation of the People Act (RPA).

It claimed how the government had referred “relevant parts of the Liberhan Commission Report to the ECI for action against the political parties for misusing religious sentiments and to strengthen the Model Code of Conduct and other electoral laws”.

“Under Section 123(3) of the RPA, appeal on the grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language etc. and promotions of feelings of enmity between different classes constitute corrupt practice but same can be questioned only by way of election petition and the ECI cannot order the investigation even when Model Code of Conduct is in force,” the petition submitted.

The petition cites a plethora of Supreme Court judgments, from the Ponnuswamy case reported in 1952 to the Manoj Nerula case in 2014, which upheld the powers of the ECI and the essentiality of free and fair elections.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2022 5:29:59 pm |