Millennium Post

Election Commission has woken up to its powers: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday refused to consider BSP supremo Mayawati's plea challenging the EC's 48-hr campaign ban on her and expressed satisfaction over the poll body's action against leaders making hate speeches.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked Mayawati's counsel to file a separate appeal against the poll panel's order.

Taking note of the EC action, the court said it seems the poll body has "woken up" and barred various politicians from poll campaigning for varying hours.

The bench also comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna made it clear that no further order was required for now.

The Election Commission on Monday imposed a nationwide campaign ban on Adityanath for 72 hours and on Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and Mayawati for 48 hours from Tuesday for their "provocative" communal remarks, which it said had the "propensity to polarise the elections".

A 72-hour campaign ban has also been imposed on Samajwadi Party's Azam Khan for his alleged "khaki underwear" jibe against actor-politician Jaya Prada, who is his rival BJP candidate in Rampur Lok Sabha seat.

The bench was hearing a PIL filed by an NRI Yoga teacher based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), seeking a direction to the EC to take "strict action" against political parties if their spokespersons make remarks based on caste and religion in the media in the run-up to general elections.

The all-India ban on all four leaders - two from the ruling BJP and two from opposition parties - came into force from 6 am Tuesday.

While Adityanath, Mayawati and Gandhi were found guilty of violating the model code, the EC said Khan not only broke the poll code, he also disregarded its November 2013 directive asking politicians to desist from "deeds or actions construed as being repugnant to the honour and dignity of women".

For the first time, a pan-India ban has been imposed on politicians, while any restriction on a chief minister and a union minister is unprecedented.

Mayawati alleged the order had been passed "under pressure" and it would be remembered as a "black day" in the EC's history. She has faced action for appealing to Muslims to not vote for the Congress to avoid their anti-BJP votes getting divided.

Her alliance partner and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav asked the EC whether it is capable of issuing similar directives to the prime minister to stop him from asking for votes in the name of the Army.

The EC order to bar Adityanath and Mayawati came soon after the Supreme Court asked the poll watchdog about the action it has initiated against them.

The apex court had on Monday expressed displeasure over the Election Commission not taking quick action against politicians for communal and hate speeches during the Lok Sabha campaigning and decided to examine the ambit of its power following submission that it was "toothless".

The EC's counsel had said: "The power of the EC in this behalf is minimal. We can issue notice and seek reply but we cannot de-recognise a party or disqualify a candidate...we can only issue advisories and in case of a repeat offence, register a complaint."

Reacting sharply, the bench had said, "So you are saying you are toothless and powerless against hate speeches."

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