SC is taking stock of MCC violations and EC action. Here’s what it has said

On Tuesday, April 30, the Supreme Court (SC) heard Congress and BJP’s petitions on PM Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, and Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s alleged Model Code of Conduct violations. Beyond the violations themselves, the Opposition has complained that the Election Commission (EC) has been particularly soft on Modi’s violations.

Modi and Shah are under SC’s scanner for making comments inciting hatred between groups and appealing for votes on behalf of the armed forces. Modi is also being hauled up for his roadshow in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, the day the state went to polls.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi is involved in criminal contempt of court proceedings for wrongly assigning the quote “Chowkidar Chor Hai” to the SC in the context of the Rafale deal issue.

What the petition against Modi, Shah states

Congress MP Sushmita Dev filed a petition in the SC against Modi and Shah, claiming that the EC has delayed taking any punitive action against them despite their MCC violations.

“It is in public domain that they have indulged in hate speeches, repeatedly used the armed forces for political propaganda, despite a clear prohibition on the same by the Respondent/ECI,” said Dev in her petition, according to Bar and Bench.

Dev adds that Modi was in “blatant violation of the MCC” when he held a rally in Gujarat on April 23, the day the state went to polls in phase 3 of the Lok Sabha elections.

Shah was also named in the petition for calling the army “Modi ji ki sena”, while Modi asked voters to keep in mind the armed forces who delivered the Balakot air strikes earlier this year.

According to the MCC, candidates and parties are not allowed to hold public rallies or meetings in areas headed to polls in 48 hours. The Congress had already moved the EC against Modi’s roadshow; Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha said a report is being compiled.

Dev even said that, despite filing multiple complaints, the EC has not responded. She also alleged that the EC is being selective in the violations it addresses, because other parties and candidates have been appropriately punished. Hence, she believes that the EC is unfairly favouring Modi and Shah and has filed a petition stating that.

“The lack of decision despite cogent evidences, representations and exhortations to the Respondent/ECI demonstrates abdication and indecision and a complete absence of justice, in ensuring a level playing field in ensuing General Elections for the Lok Sabha,” read Dev’s petition.

What the SC says

On Tuesday, an SC bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph heard Dev’s petition against Modi and Shah.

Bar and Bench reports that the SC held a brief hearing and said the EC has the power to take whatever action it deems necessary. The court also issued a notice to the EC and will conduct another hearing on this issue on Thursday, May 2.

Rahul will apologise for ‘chowkidar’ remark

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi filed a petition against Rahul in the SC, alleging that he is in contempt of court.

In April, when the SC allowed leaked Rafale documents to be included in its judgment on the case, Rahul had claimed that the SC had said “Chowkidar Chor Hai” about Modi. He had also strongly condemned Modi and said he was a “thief”.

On April 22, Rahul filed an affidavit expressing “regret” for his comments and explaining that he “juxtaposed and intermingled” his political opinion with that of the SC.

Rahul said he “undertakes that he will not attribute any views, observations or findings to the court in political addresses to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the court”.

He also admitted that he made those statements in the heat of the moment when he was happy about the SC reopening the Rafale case.

Rahul said his remarks were made in a “general sense of victory and exhilaration amongst those who had been campaigning for inquiry into the Rafale case, which is one of the most prominent political and social issues in the country for many months”.

But critics are dissatisfied

Critics said Rahul’s response did not offer an apology, merely a justification of his words. Lekhi’s petition echoed this concern that Rahul wrongly attributed the quote “Chowkidar chor hai” to the SC.

Lekhi also said Rahul made that comment twice on the same day and in a political rally, refuting his claim that his words were impulsive. Hence, he should “unconditionally apologise”.

Rahul’s lawyer argued that “regret” means the same as an apology, requesting the court to allow Rahul to make a necessary correction to the affidavit reflecting the same.

The SC allowed Rahul to file another affidavit because the language is confusing. His legal team promised that the new affidavit will clearly reflect an apology to the court, reports Bar and Bench.

He filed a counter-affidavit to Lekhi’s petition saying she was abusing the power of the SC to wrongly punish him because he did not wilfully misrepresent SC’s words. He also listed past incidents where the BJP has also wrongly attributed quotes to the SC.

However, Lekhi’s attorneys argued that BJP’s alleged past instances do not absolve Rahul today.

The SC said it will hear the case again on May 6, when phase 5 of the Lok Sabha elections is held.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

BJPCongressLok Sabha Elections 2019