Notices issued by the Election Commission to BJP and Congress- Too,little, too late- Why has the Commission ignored other serious MCC violations?

election commission of india

Shri Rajiv Kumar

Chief Election Commissioner

Shri Gyanesh Kumar

Election Commissioner

Dr Sukhbir Singh Sandhu 

Election Commissioner

Dear Dr Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, S/Shri Gyanesh Kumar/ Rajiv Kumar,

I refer to the Commission’s notice vide 437/INST/ECI/FUNCT/MCC/2024 dated 25-4-2024 issued to the President of BJP and the notice vide 437/6/INST/ECI/FUNCT/MCC/2024 dated 25-4-2024 issued to the President of the Congress party, calling for their explanation on alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

The notice issued to the Congress party is on the basis of a complaint registered by BJP on 19-4-2024, which implies that the Commission took about a week to respond. In fact, BJP registered several complaints in the past against the Congress including the one on 1-4-2024 ( Evidently, the Commission has taken its own time to respond to such a serious allegations against the Congress.

The notice issued by the Commission to the Congress party is based on a complaint registered by the BJP on 21-4-2024, implying a delay of four days in the Commission responding to it.

In addition to the complaints registered by political parties as above, citizens like me had also brought to the Commission’s notice certain statements made by star campaigners of parties, which amounted prima facie to serious MCC violations.

One such letter dated 22-3-2024 addressed to the Commission referred to a statement made by Prime Minister Modi in Tamil Nadu, which prima facie amounted to a misrepresentation of the speeches made by opposition leaders and invoking religion for votes ( I have extracted below a statement reported to have been made by Shri Modi:

“Everyone in Tamil Nadu knows what Shakti is in Hinduism. In Tamil Nadu, Incarnations of Deities are considered as forms of ‘Shakti’. Kanchi Kamakshi Amma, Madurai Meenakshi Amma, Samayapuram Mariamma Devi have big temples in the State. Apart from this, Hindus also believe in ‘Matru Shakti’, ‘Nari Shakti’ …… the plans of the INDIA Alliance have been revealed in their first rally itself. During their first rally in Mumbai, they made statements about destroying ‘Shakti’, about fighting against ‘Shakti’. Their statement has been a sheer insult to the Hindu religion, Hindu faith”In the normal course, one would have expected the Commission to feel concerned about the complaint, cause a thorough investigation of the content of the statement made by the Congress party that prompted such a high dignitary as Prime Minister Modi himself to refer to it and cause a similar investigation of the statement made by Shri Modi himself and its implications from the point of view of the MCC and the laws applicable otherwise. Though more than a month has elapsed since I brought this to the notice of the Commission, the Commission has failed to act on my letter. 

Inaction on the part of the Commission has encouraged not only the star campaigners of Congress and BJP but also those of other parties to take the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and the Commission itself for granted, encouraging them to continue making such statements, violating the MCC and the provisions of the Representation of People Act and the the IPC (and its successor legislation). This is corroborated by subsequent developments that shaped the election campaign discourse that followed.

As I had brought to your notice vide my letter dated 17-4-2024, Shri Modi had made yet another statement, this time, in Assam, in which he had prima facie invoked religion once again for votes ( Had the Commission acted promptly and effectively on his earlier statement in Tamil Nadu cited above, perhaps he would have hesitated to make another similar statement in Assam. 

Unfortunately, as in the case of my earlier letter, the Commission is yet to act on my letter dated 17-4-2024 with reference to Assam.

Once again, had the Commission taken prompt action on Shri Modi’s statements in Tamil Nadu and Assam, he would have thought twice before venturing into invoking religion for votes as he did in Rajasthan and subsequently in Aligarh, on which the Congress party has since approached the Commission. 

One would expect the Commission with its elaborate, expensive administrative machinery and facilities to take cognizance suo moto of star campaigners’ statements that violate the law of the land and act on its own, rather than waiting for parties and citizens to register complaints. 

The Commission should know that every citizen of India has a heavy stake in elections as much as anybody else and he/she has every right to question the role played by the Commission and the promptitude and effectiveness with which it acts on MCC violations. The Commission cannot and should not take citizens’ complaints lightly, as it is to the public that the Commission should hold itself ultimately accountable. 

The people expect the Commission to be fully committed to its mandate under Article 324, the provisions of the election laws and other legislations applicable. Condoning objectionable statements made by parties, their candidates, especially their star campaigners, that  brazenly violate the law of the land, of the kind referred above, not only belittle the importance of the MCC but also make the Commission a willing party to star campaigners openly and brazenly infringing the law of the land. It is unfortunate that star campaigners who are expected to set an example to the people should openly defy the rule of law. It is equally unfortunate that the Commission should become complicit in it. 

While Article 324 of the Constitution obligates the Commission to function apolitically and conduct elections in a free and fair manner, para 2.2.2 of its own “Manual of MCC, Document 21” issued in March 2019 states as follows:

Meanwhile, the situation changed. Based on its experience of conducting elections in varied scenario, the Election Commission now maintains that bringing Model Code on the statute book would be a self-defeating measure, because during elections, any violation of Model Code warrants a quick decision and remedial measure, which may not be possible if the matters are taken to the courts and become the subject of examination in a regular judicial process. It is felt that any judicial pronouncement after the election is already over, would have little relevance, and the Election Commission has therefore withdrawn its proposal to give Model Code a statutory backing. The Election Commission has been repeatedly reiterating its view that Model Code will lose its whole efficacy if all its provisions are converted into electoral offences or corrupt practices”

If the Commission had the time and inclination to read the above paragraph carefully and appreciate the circumstances that led to its predecessors to give up their effort to get the MCC a legal cover, it would have realised that the Commission’s emphasis should be on taking prompt action on enforcement of the MCC along with urgent action to initiate proceedings under the Representation of People Act and the IPC (and its successor legislation) so as to make it clear to those who violate the law of the land, that the Commission would not hesitate to proceed against them so as to preempt similar violations in the days that follow.

Instead, it is ironic that the Commission should allow star campaigners to make statements as they like indiscriminately, taking the MCC, the election law and the relevant provisions of the IPC  for granted, making them believe that the Commission would wink at and tolerate such violations, making a mockery of its own mandate under Article 324, and ignoring the very rationale that prompted its predecessors drop proposals to secure a statutory cover for the MCC. 

Contrary to the expectations of the earlier Election Commissioners, the present Commission by acquiescing in parties openly committing MCC violations is forcing citizens and political parties to seek judicial intervention.

All the more important, the Commission, by displaying such a casual and condoning attitude to one or two star campaigners, encouraging them to make such statements again and again in a blatant violation of the law of the land, is committing a breach of its own mandate under Article 324, ignoring the responsibilities that it is required to discharge under the Representation of People Act and other laws. It ultimately amounts to committing a breach of the trust that the people repose in the Commission.

I wish to point out to you the wider implications of the casual manner in which the Commission has been dealing with MCC violations committed by star campaigners. By being casual in not taking action against those that infringe the MCC, the Commission has become a willing party to star campaigners brazenly invoking religion, caste, creed etc, for votes, which divides the society in an irreversible manner. While elections may come and go, one party or another may win, the divisive statements made by short-sighted campaigners cut at the very root of social cohesion, hurting the long-term well-being of the people. 
Should not the Commission ponder over this urgently and re-orient its own role consistent with the intent of Article 324 and consistent with the long-term well-being of the people?


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to the Government of India

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