Appeal to the President of India: Ensure that EC Conducts the Elections in a Free and Fair Manner

by Prof Jagdeep S. Chhokar & Dr E A S Sarma

election commission of india

Appeal for Rashtrapati Ji’s urgent intervention to ensure that the Election Commission acts independently, apolitically and takes action against star campaigners of BJP and other political parties to ensure elections being conducted in a free and fair manner

To


Smt. Droupadi Murmu

Hon’ble President of India

Respected Rashtrapati Ji,We take the liberty of addressing your high office on a series of prima facie violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) committed by Prime Minister Modi recently during electioneering, that relate to invoking religion for votes, violating not only the MCC but also amounting to committing a “corrupt practice” under the Representation of People Act (RPA) and even a penal offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and its successor legislation. 


Despite complaints registered by us and several others, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has failed to act, which leaves us with no other alternative than to seek your urgent intervention.
In particular, we have reproduced below, extracts from a letter written by Prof  Jagdeep S. Chhokar, one of the signatories here, on the 22nd of April, 2024 to the ECI (readily accessible at https://countercurrents.org/2024/04/violations-of-model-code-of-conduct-representation-of-the-people-act-and-ipc-by-pm-narendra-modi/) to indicate the seriousness of the statement reported to have been made by the Prime Minister (PM) in Rajasthan on the previous day, and repeated more or less in the same words at an election rally at Aligarh the next day (https://www.aninews.in/news/national/politics/congress-ki-nazar-aapki-sampatti-mangal-sutra-par-hai-pm-modi-lambasts-partys-maoist-thinking20240422185220/#google_vignette):

it is a speech by Shri Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister, in Banswara in Rajasthan, on April 21, 2024, that makes me take the liberty of writing to you to lodge a complaint for violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

3.     A link to the video of this speech is available at the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8s9LkUoFzA, with the title “PM Modi Live | Public meeting in Banswara, Rajasthan | Lok Sabha Election 2024”.

4.     Anyone watching the entire video will, in my opinion, will not be left in any doubt whatsoever that it is an election campaign video. Shri Modi is a star campaigner for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and actually names candidates contesting on behalf of the BJP.

5.     I urge the full Commission to particularly watch the video from 36:44 to 38:01, a Hindi transcript of which, taken from the You Tube link mentioned above itself, is reproduced below.

6.     =================================================

36:44

मेनिफेस्टो में गोल ले लेंगे सबको वितरित कर देंगे और

36:50

पहले जब उनकी सरकार थी उन्होंने कहा था कि देश की संपत्ति पर पहला अधिकार मुसलमानों

36:59

इसका मतलब यह संपत्ति इकट्ठी करके किसको

37:04

बांटेंगे जिनके ज्यादा बच्चे हैं उनको

37:10

बाटेंगे घुसपैठियों को बाटेंगे क्या आपकी मेहनत की कमाई का पैसा

37:17

गुपे को दिया जाएगा आपको मंजूर है य यह कांग्रेस का मैनिफेस्टो कह रहा

37:26

है माताओं बहनों का सोने का हिसाब करेंगे उसकी जड़ती करेंगे जानकारी लेंगे और फिर

37:34

उस संपत्ति को बांट देंगे और उनको बांटेंगे जिनको मनमोहन सिंह जी की सरकार

37:40

ने कहा था कि संपत्ति पर पहला अधिकार मुसलमानों का है भाइयों बहनों ये अर्बन

37:48

नक्सल की सोच मेरी माताओं बहनों ये

37:54

आपका मंगल सूत्र भी बचने नहीं देंगे यहां तक जाएंगे मैं कहने

38:01

आया साथियों 

7.     To me it is clear that the above excerpts from Shri Modi’s speech are clearly in violation of Sections 123(3), 123(3A), and Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951. The RPA, 1951 can be seen at https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/2096/5/a1951-43.pdf.

8.     Sections 123(3), 123(3A), and Section 125 of the RPA, 1951, are reproduced below for ready reference.

“123(3) The appeal by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent to vote or refrain from voting for any person on the ground of his religion, race, caste, community or language or the use of, or appeal to religious symbols or the use of, or appeal to, national symbols, such as the national flag or the national emblem, for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate:

Provided that no symbol allotted under this Act to a candidate shall be deemed to be a religious symbol or a national symbol for the purposes of this clause.”

“123(3A) The promotion of, or attempt to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language, by a candidate or his agent or any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate.”

“125. Promoting enmity between classes in connection with election.—Any person who in connection with an election under this Act promotes or attempts to promote on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language, feelings of enmity or hatred, between different classes of the citizens of India shall he punishable, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

9.     In addition, to the above violations of the RPA 1951, the above speech and the excerpts in particular, also attract the provisions of Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code which reads as follows:

153A. Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.—(1) Whoever—

(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or

(b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity.

The complete text of the Indian Penal Code can be accessed at https://lddashboard.legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1860-45.pdf.”

The ECI ought to have acted forthwith on Prof Chhokar’s complaint against the PM, endorsed by many of us, as such statements tend to divide the society and cause irreparable damage to our democratic values, tainting the electoral process. Till date, to the best of our knowledge, the Commission has not acted.

This is not the first time that the PM made such statements invoking religion for votes in recent electioneering. He made statements in Tamil Nadu and Assam, on which some of us have registered complaints for urgent action by the ECI, as would be evident from the following correspondence that is self-explanatory. 

https://countercurrents.org/2024/04/does-the-eci-have-one-set-of-model-code-of-conduct-requirements-for-senior-bjp-star-campaigners-and-another-set-for-others

https://countercurrents.org/2024/04/delhi-bjp-to-hold-mega-gathering-of-hindu-saints-and-seers-at-igi-stadium-ahead-of-ls-polls

https://countercurrents.org/2024/04/has-the-election-commission-chosen-to-become-a-willing-party-to-bjp-using-religion-for-votes-in-violation-of-the-mcc-and-section-123-of-the-representation-of-the-people-act

https://countercurrents.org/2024/04/pms-speech-in-connection-with-surya-tilak-at-ayodhya-mandir-does-it-violate-the-model-code-of-conduct

https://thewire.in/government/is-election-commission-afraid-to-act-on-my-mcc-complaint-against-modi-former-bureaucrat-asks

Inaction on the part of the ECI on those complaints has encouraged the BJP and its star campaigners to make more and more such objectionable statements, making a mockery of the role of the ECI as envisaged under Article 324 of the Constitution.


We feel that the ECI, by not acting on the above cited complaints, has committed a serious breach of the intent of Article 324 which mandates it to conduct elections in a free and fair manner. A dysfunctional Election Commission, in our view, cannot conduct elections in a free and fair manner, and therefore cannot elicit public trust. 

In addition to multiple MCC violations on which the ECI has failed to act, there have been several other fronts on which it has shown unwillingness to exercise its authority under Article 324 to ensure a level-playing ground in elections for all political parties.

In the past, for example, some of us had pointed out to the Commission several instances of the BJP-led NDA government indirectly interfering with the sanctity of the electoral process, including planting of BJP’s nominees on the Boards of Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), the two CPSEs exclusively entrusted with the manufacture and supply of EVMs and appointing a BJP nominee on the Board of the SBI which had been exclusively entrusted with the operation of the illegal Electoral Bonds scheme. The Commission which has a reservoir of authority under Article 324 to intervene in such matters and direct the government to withdraw political nominees from the Boards of the three institutions, has failed to act till date.

Substantial amounts received by BJP and a few other political parties by way of donations through the Electoral Bonds scheme, held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court recently, are lying with those parties and are being spent on the current elections. The ECI could exercise its authority under Article 324 and freeze all such amounts to prevent the same being used in elections to the detriment of the integrity of the electoral process. Despite complaints, the Commission has chosen not to act on the same.

More recently, some of us pointed out to the ECI that there are glaring instances of conflict of conflict of interest in the case of some members of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) on which the Commission seems to rely heavily to defend the highly controversial EVM-VVPAT system to reject complaints made by civil society organisations and several political parties (https://www.thenewsminute.com/long-form/questions-swirl-around-committee-that-certifies-indias-electronic-voting-machines)

It is in public knowledge as to how the opposition political parties have been complaining of the BJP-led NDA government exercising undue control over Central enforcement agencies to harass opposition leaders selectively. In exercise of its authority under Article 324, the ECI ought to have directed those agencies to function under its oversight, as it does in the case of the State agencies but, despite numerous complaints, the Commission has chosen not to act, evidently with a view not to displease the BJP-led NDA government.

The nation cannot afford to have elections conducted with the ruling BJP having an advantage over other parties, tacitly supported by the ECI, with statements being made by its star campaigners that contain slander, that spread hatred, that invoke religion for votes and that irreversibly fracture the society.  

Against this background, we appeal to you to take under your direct oversight the functioning of the Election Commission and shield all other Constitutional and regulatory institutions from the purview of the political executive, at least, till the ensuing Parliament and State Assembly elections are over.

Such a measure, in our view, is urgently required to safeguard our democracy.

Respectfully

Prof Jagdeep S. Chhokar, PhD., LL.B.                                    

Professor (Retired) and Former Dean                               

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad

Dr E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to the Government of India 

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