New Delhi: Election Commission of India on April 16 made a U-turn in the Supreme Court, saying it had ample powers to act against political leaders making communal remarks in their poll speeches.
The EC on April 15 had told the court it was ‘toothless’ and ‘powerless’ to act against such politicians, as all it could do was issue a notice to them, demand an explanation and issue an advisory.
However, hours after that, the poll panel had cracked the whip on four leaders, barring Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, BSP chief Mayawati, Union minister Maneka Gandhi and SP leader Azam Khan from campaigning for specified periods. All four had violated the Model Code of Conduct.
On April 16, the court told the EC: “It seems you have got your powers back,” adding it was satisfied with the action taken by the Election Commission, and there was no need for an interim order.
The apex court is hearing a PIL seeking strict action against political parties if their spokespersons and representatives make casteist and communal statements during polls.
After the EC pleaded it had limited powers, the court had asked a representative “well-versed on the issue” to appear before it on April 16. It was in this hearing that the poll panel changed its stand.
The PIL has been filed by an NRI from Sharjah, Harpreet Mansukhani. The petitioner urged the top court to constitute a bench headed by former Supreme Court judges “to keep a close watch on the entire election process and check the fairness” of the EC during the Lok Sabha polls.