The 2019 Lok Sabha election has seen the Supreme Court intervene time and again with the Election Commission (EC) to do the right thing.
From asking the panel to watch a movie before deciding to get its release postponed to increasing the VVPAT verification from one to five EVMs in an Assembly segment and standing up for the EC in the electoral bonds issue, the Supreme Court has, for the past few weeks, intervened for the conduct of free and fair polls.
Freedom of expression
When the EC stayed the public screening of the biopic PM Narendra Modi , a Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi agreed with the filmmakers that the poll body should first view the entire movie before taking a call on its release. The freedom of speech and expression was at stake here. The court asked the EC to give the filmmakers a chance to be heard.
The court gave judicial recognition to the EC’s long-felt apprehensions about the lack of transparency in the government’s much-touted electoral bonds scheme. In an interim order, the court directed parties to provide complete information to the EC in sealed covers on every single donor and contribution received till date through electoral bonds.
Refusing the government’s stand that the court should steer clear of policy issues, the CJI Bench found that lack of transparency raised “weighty issues with tremendous bearing on the sanctity of the electoral process in the country”.
The most telling intervention of the Supreme Court was the manner in which it made the EC “wake up to its own powers” and take action against politicians, including Mayawati, Yogi Adityanath, Maneka Gandhi and Azam Khan, for making communal and religious statements in their election speeches. On April 8, in order to “ensure the greatest degree of accuracy, satisfaction in the election process,” the apex court increased VVPAT verification to five random Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in each Assembly segment/constituency. Earlier, only one EVM in an Assembly segment/constituency was subject to random VVPAT verification.
“Not only political parties but the poor and the illiterate should be satisfied,” the apex court had observed in its order.
The court has asked the EC to respond to a plea that cash for vote is on the rise in Tamil Nadu and denies “an equal voice for some voters and an equal chance for some candidates.”
The interventions of the apex court continue.
Starting April 22, the CJI Bench is scheduled to hear a bevy of sensitive cases, including the criminal contempt petition against Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his statement ‘chowkidar chor hai’.