Poll code cannot encroach right to free speech: Jaitley's reminder to Congress

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 07 May 2019, 10:56 PM
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (File Photo)
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (File Photo)
HIGHLIGHTS
    • Jaitley terms Congress the 'cry baby' of 2019 elections.
    • FM attacks the party for alleging violation of MCC by BJP again and again.
    • However, the poll body issued clean cheat to the rulling party in all the cases.

In yet another hard-hitting Facebook post, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday described the Congress as the "cry baby" of this election, saying the party has recently developed a new tendency to excessively allege a violation of the model code of conduct (MCC) by its opponents. The senior BJP leader also reminded the grand-old-party that the model code of conduct cannot encroach someone's right to free speech in any way.

"Of late, a tendency has developed amongst the political parties to excessively allege a violation of the MCC by their opponents. The Congress Party as the 'Cry Baby' of this election, is leading the pack," Jaitley wrote in the blog post titled 'Model Code of Conduct Does Not Take Away the Right to Free Speech'. "The MCC cannot encroach the right to free speech. The two have to exist harmoniously," he added.

In a reference to Article 324 of the Indian Constitution, Jaitley said, any power exercised by the Election Commission under the act cannot relate to areas which are covered by the legislation or regulation but will be confined to areas where legislation does not occupy any space. Article 324 empowers the Election Commission to take all necessary steps in order to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections.

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to first-time voters that they should keep in mind the sacrifice of martyrs while casting vote, Jaitley said: "no party or candidate was mentioned". Addressing a public rally in Maharashtra Modi had on April 9, said, "Can your first vote be dedicated to those who carried out the air strike in Pakistan".

Citing Modi's another statement in Wardha about Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad, Jaitley said the prime minister only commented on the demographic composition of the constituency. "If such speeches are considered by anyone as violative of the MCC, that may actually run the danger of the MCC's constitutionality in relation to free speech being called into question," he said.

Last month, the Congress had knocked the Election Commission's door, asking the poll panel to take action against Modi's "divisive" speech on Gandhi.

In an election rally in Wadhara, Modi had on April 1 reportedly said the opposition party was "scared" to field its leaders from constituencies where the majority dominates. Modi's statement indicated that Kerala's Wayanad constituency had more voters from the minority community which led the Congress chief to file his nomination from the seat.

In a first, Gandhi, this year, is contesting from Kerala's Wayanad, as a second parliamentary constituency, in addition to his traditional stronghold in Uttar Pradesh's Amethi.

However, the Election Commission did not find any violation of its instructions in Modi's speech during his Maharashtra and Wardha rallies and issued him a clean cheat on the basis of the Congress' complaint against him.

On the latest incident of the Congress approaching the EC, the finance minister said, "they can call even an honest Prime Minister a 'Chor'. Others don't possess that right".

At a rally in Uttar Pradesh, Modi had last week launched a blistering attack on Rahul Gandhi, saying that his father (Rajiv Gandhi) was termed Mr Clean by his courtiers, but his life ended as "bhrashtachari no 1".

Though the prime minister was issued a clean cheat by the Election Commission for his "bhrashtachari no 1" remark on Rajiv Gandhi yet again on Tuesday, the comment evoked a widespread criticism from politicians across party lines.

First Published: Tuesday, May 07, 2019 10:38 PM
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