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India's top court questions election commission on action against perpetrators of hate speech

April 15, 2019

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The election commission says they are toothless, India's SC notes during hearing. — AFP/File
The election commission says they are toothless, India's SC notes during hearing. — AFP/File

The Indian Supreme Court on Monday called out the country's election commission for not taking action against the perpetrators of hate speeches made on religious lines during election rallies, India Today reported.

Taking note of an alleged hate speech made by Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during election campaigns, the Supreme Court asked what action had the election commission initiated against him so far.

Adityanath had made controversial remarks about the Muslim League and had dubbed them as a "green virus" while suggesting that Hindu and Muslim voters are facing off in a "Ali-Bajrang Bali" contest.

"Agar Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), BSP ko Ali par vishwaas hai, toh humein bhi Bajrang Bali par vishwaas hai (If the Congress, the SP and the BSP have faith in Ali, then we too have faith in Bajrang Bali)," Yogi Adityanath was quoted by India Today as saying in Meerut.

According to India Today, the Supreme Court bench, headed by the Indian chief justice Ranjan Gogoi, has summoned a representative of the election commission on April 16 to discuss the matter. The supreme court has also agreed to examine the poll panel's contention that it has limited legal power to deal with hate speeches made by politicians during election campaigns.

"The election commission says they are toothless. They say that they first issue notice, then advisory and then complain," the bench was quoted as saying. According to India Today, the bench said it will examine the aspect relating to poll panel's power to deal with hate speeches during campaigns.

The bench told the election commission that matters pertaining to elections are time sensitive and hence they cannot be dragged, the publication added.

The Indian election is being held in seven phases in April and May, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP seeks a second term.

About 900 million people are eligible to vote in a staggered process that allows the government to deploy tens of thousands of troops to prevent outbreaks of violence and the capture of voting stations by party activists.