The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the order of the Election Commission of India (ECI) preventing ex-Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath, from being the ‘star campaigner’ ahead of the by-polls in the State. It must be remembered that the nodal election body had earlier delisted the Congress leader on October 30 for repeated violation of Model Code of Conduct.
A 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of CJI SA Bobde, Justices V Ramasubramanian and AS Bopanna ruled that ECI had exceeded its powers through the delisting of Kamal Nath as the star campaigner. “We are staying your order. Who has given the power to you delist a candidate from being a star campaigner or a leader of the party under Section 77 of the Act? We have read it,” CJI Bobde emphasized.
Supreme Court stays Election Commission’s revocation of Congress leader Kamal Nath’s star campaigner status. pic.twitter.com/h8z0h34nWH— ANI (@ANI) November 2, 2020
Kamal Nath claims no notice was issued prior to delisting
In his petition to the Supreme Court, Kamal Nath argued, “ECI cannot arbitrarily revoke the name of Petitioner from the list of ‘star campaigners’ when the entire statutory framework of Section 77(1) of Representation of People Act, 1951 does not grant such powers to the ECI.”
He further added, “The order is passed in complete violation of basic canons of natural justice and in negation of fairplay and therefore, deserves to be quashed. Further, no notice has been issued to the Petitioner with regard to the impugned Order in complete violation of principles of natural injustice.”
He alleged that no action was taken by the nodal election body against the BJP despite making statements, which allegedly violate the Model Code of Conduct. Kamal Nath was represented by Kapil Sibal, who argued that the order was arbitrary and that no notice was issued prior to the delisting as the star campaigner.
Election Commission tells SC that the matter was ‘infructuous’
In its defence, Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing the ECI, stated that the matter was ‘infructuous’ as the election campaign for the by-polls were over. he added that the elections are scheduled to be held tomorrow. Dwivedi urged the Court to seek a reply from the nodal election body instead of putting a stay on the order. However, the apex court refused to agree.
CJI: Who is appearing for @ECISVEEP ?— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) November 2, 2020
Senior Adv Rakesh Dwivedi: The matter is infractions. Campaigning is over and poll is tomorrow
Senior Adv Kapil Sibal: No notice was issued to us and this was arbitrary
Kamal Nath disregarded EC’s warnings
The Election Commission had barred Kamal Nath from being the Congress party’s star campaigner for disregarding the warnings of the nodal election body and repeatedly violating the Model Code of Conduct. During a public gathering in Dabra, the senior Congress leader referred to a Dalit BJP leader Imarti Devi as an ‘item’.
“Wo kya hai… main uska naam kyun lun… aapko mujhe satrak karna chahiye tha kya item hai… (Who is she… what’s her name? You all should have warned me… what an item!),” Kamal Nath said as the crowd of Congress supporters yelled Imarti Devi’s name. Following the public backlash, the EC delisted him for breaching ‘ethical and dignified behaviour’.