Seems like poll panel has found its powers, says Supreme Court

The Election Commission of India “has woken up to its powers” observed an amused Supreme Court on Tuesday, after a spate of directions from the ECI on Monday against hate speech and poll code violations.

The courtroom exchange between Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and senior advocate CA Sundaram summed up the change in outlook of the ECI following Monday’s drubbing from the court. “seems like you have powers”, observed the CJI, to which Sundaram shot back “we found we have several powers.” “shall we write down now that the Election commission has woken up to its powers?” said the amused CJI.

On Monday, the ECI had come under a severe drubbing from the Supreme Court for “dragging its feet” over the blatant use of religion and caste on political speeches. The court had expressed its ire after the lawyer appearing for the ECI claimed that the poll body could not do “very much beyond issuing notices and advisories.”

“The EC is saying they are powerless, they are toothless,” the court had observed on Monday, while asking the poll panel to send a “responsible officer” to the court on Tuesday morning to consider the issue of the powers available to the ECI to take action on violation of Model Code of Conduct. Within hours of the scathing comments from the apex court, the ECI barred UP CM Yogi Adityanath from making any political comments for 72 hours, and BSP chief Mayawati received a 48 hour ban.

Later in the day, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan were also directed to stay away from the poll campaign and the media. “Pursuant to the Order passed yesterday, the Election Commission has taken action as has been considered appropriate, details of which have been intimated to the Court” the court noted in its order.

The apex court also refused to entertain a plea by lawyers appearing for Mayawati against the ECI’s 48-hour ban. Senior advocate Dushyant Dave requested the court to give an urgent hearing on Tuesday to Mayawati’s appeal. Dave argued that the ECI had passed “ex parte orders without giving Mayawati a chance to reply to the notice…” The bench responded with a resounding No.

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