EC does it
There's no doubt that election campaigning this year has resembled pie-fights. The Election Commission has rightly aired its concern about the ungainly affair and has warned parties that if the smear campaigns continue, they will be duly hauled up for breaking the Model Code of Conduct.
Punishment could even amount to derecognising parties. In some way, this caveat from the EC has worked. People like Narendra Modi have been warned by his own party colleagues to take it easy. Congress canards against top BJP leaders — including the prime minister — have also been pulled back into the hangar. So the latest Supreme Court pronouncement that it would consider making political mudslinging into an electoral offence seems a bit unnecessary.
The apex court has warned that if found guilty of indulging in such ‘undemocratic activity’, the individual can be disqualified even if he or she is elected to the Lok Sabha or state assembly. The issue came to the court’s notice when the central government petitioned the Supreme Court to ban offensive political ads on TV. While the April 2 order saw to it that all political ads on TV are prohibited, the matter has been taken a step further. The Supreme Court has asked the EC to formulate a guideline regarding slanderous advertisements. This is, as we had commented in an earlier editorial, the need of the hour. But does the apex court need to come in where the EC’s role is good enough?
In the next few days, we’ll know what is allowed and what isn’t while campaigning. The EC has the power to take action against those flouting strictures. So, for the Supreme Court to announce that it will disqualify loudmouthed candidates is too much of a ‘proactive’ exercise from the judiciary for comfort. Incendiary remarks in the form of political speeches that could incite passions are, anyway, prohibited by the law — and what action needs to be taken is specified. As for tackling mudslinging, surely the election commissioners can do the job they are entrusted with.