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OpinionsAmid Concerns Over EC's Inaction Against Hate Speeches

Amid Concerns Over EC’s Inaction Against Hate Speeches

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During Election, People Remember TN Sheshan, ‘The No-Nonsense Man' For Taking Stringent Action Against MCC Violators

KS Tomar

In recent times, one of the most glaring concerns regarding the Election Commission of (ECI) has been its perceived reluctance to take action against hate speeches, particularly when it comes from top influential political figures such as the Prime Minister, AICC president, former presidents etc.

In this dismal scenario, people of India are remembering a no-nonsense man, former chief election commissioner of India, late Terunellai Naryan Iyer Seshan (T.N. Seshan ,who cleaned up the Indian electoral system as successive chief election commissioners barring J.M. Lyngdoh has been succumbing to the pressure of the party in power which holds true even today.

Interestingly, Election commission issued ten point directive on Wednesday, that too after one month ,to BJP President, J.P.Nadda and AICC chief, Malikarjun Kharge and asked them to check their star campaigners to desist from ‘divisive remarks' and maintain the decorum but failed to take stringent action against violators of both parties. ECI found the submitted by heads of BJP and Congress about hate speeches of prime minister, Narender Modi and EX AICC president, Rahul Gandhi as “not tenable” but it did not even name them hence question of any action does not arise? Complaints filed by BJP named Rahul Gandhi and similarly Congress had accused Modi of hate speech but the commission took the safe route of issuing warning to party chiefs to check their star campaigners to refrain from indulging in objectionable utterances?

Future Implications Of ‘Weak Action' Of Commission Against Violators

Experts say that the revolutionary reforms introduced by 1955 batch IAS officer, former chief election commissioner of India, late Terunellai Naryan Iyer Seshan(T.N. Seshan) and taken forward by Lingdoh, empowered and encouraged the poll body to take direct action against any top politician irrespective of post held by him or her. But it needs courage which has not happened and it may have serious fallout on its credibility.

2nd, academics, scholars, intellectuals, middle class thinkers, common people have been questioning the impartiality of the commission and getting frustrated with its inaction against “BIGWIGS” .it was Seshan ,a Ramon Magsasay Awardee, who waged war against the tendency of politicians to flout the model code of conduct, which they are supposed to abide by. In one of his daring actions, polling was suspended in a Madhya Pradesh constituency as a serving governor campaigned for his son which ultimately led to his resignation. In Uttar Pradesh, a minister was forced to quit the dais at a rally as the campaign period had just ended. Seshan' detractors called him an authoritarian, egotistic, eccentric and publicity-hungry person but countrymen respected him.

3rd, the procedure of appointment of CEC and commissioners is completely defective which is denigrating the prestige of the constitutional body. The dominance of representatives of government in power belies the optimism of expecting harsh action against top “BOSSES' ”of ruling and opposition which hold true in present cases of Modi and Rahul.

4th, with sharp rise in the consciousness amongst the citizens, an tendency of aggression amongst the youths in the country not to tolerate a weak poll body, etc., the questions will be asked about lack of the courage and audacity on the part of the commission to conduct free and fair elections in the country.

5th, the experts cite an example of a blatant lack of exercising powers, rationality and failure to act during assembly April, 2021 polls in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala during Covid 19 period which forced high courts to intervene. The Madras high court will be remembered in history of India for stinging observations against the election commission of India which had put the entire onus of permitting election rallies on commission and described such action as “Super Spreader” of epidemic.

 

A Peek Into History

Election commission acquired a notoriety for creating scare amongst politicians of every hue during unyielding force and no-nonsense man, Sheshan who was also famous for having traits of bullying, fearless, uncompromising nature, courageous and honest to the core. Sheshan is also credited for creating a history of sorts and ECI was also known as a “robust institution” safeguarding the tenets of democracy in the country. It was the commencement of the transformative era in the conduct of Indian elections

 

Role Of Successive Governments At Centre

A cursory look at successive governments at centre will give an ample idea about their hold over the spineless institution which has been vitiated due to lack of full proof system to appoint ECI and commissioners. Seshan was appointed as 10th chief ECI by former PM, Chander Shekhar on Dec 12, 1990 and discharged his duty till Dec 11, 1996. He created a terror in the minds of violators of model code of conduct which could be attributed to his whimsical and unpredictable nature .EX CEI was free from fear of consequences hence introduced several poll reforms which will be remembered in the electoral history of India.

 

Current Scenario Does Not Hold Good For Democracy

In the existing dismal scenario, none should hope against the hope that election commission will muster the courage to take action against VVIPs which include prime minister, Narender Modi,AICC president, Rahul Gandhi etc. who were issued notices by poll body on April 25 for allegedly violating the model code of conduct but no action was taken for almost one month . BJP and Congress sought a fifteen days extension which was construed as an escape route to delay any anticipated action though there existed none. Interestingly notices were sent to top bosses of both parties not directly to concerned persons which, as per election commission, was provided in the rules. The congress and communist leaders had filed complaints against the prime minister for his divisive speech at the Banswara rally. On the same analogy, the election commission was requested to initiate action against Kharge and Rahul Gandhi for allegedly describing the PM as “jiabkatra” and “panauti” which clearly violated the poll code..

Moreover, the ECI's inaction raises questions about its commitment to upholding democratic principles. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right, but it is not absolute. When speech incites violence or hatred, it crosses a dangerous line that threatens the very foundations of democracy. The ECI's failure to act against hate speech undermines its credibility as the guardian of free and fair elections.

It is essential for the Election Commission to fulfil its mandate and act as a neutral arbiter, especially in times of heightened political tensions. This requires a proactive approach to addressing hate speech, regardless of the political affiliations of the perpetrators. Swift and decisive action must be taken to send a clear message that hate speech will not be tolerated in Indian democracy.

In conclusion, some of the former chief election commissioners felt that the new government should take an urgent call to look into the procedure of appointment of CEI and commissioners which must be done by an expert committee comprising of chief justice of India to instil confidence amongst the people in the country.

The Election Commission's failure to take action against hate speech, particularly when it emanates from influential political figures like the Prime Minister or heads of big political organizations, undermines the principles of democracy and threatens social cohesion. The commission must assert its independence and act decisively to uphold the integrity of India's electoral process. Failure to do so risks further erosion of public trust and damaging the democratic fabric of the nation.

 

(Writer is political analyst and senior journalist based in )

 

 

 

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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