The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to respond to a petition calling for strict action against political leaders and party representatives spreading hatred on religious and caste lines through the media, especially social media platforms.
A Bench of Chief Jutice Ranjan Gogoi issued notice to the ECI on the plea filed by Harpreet Mansukhani, a non-resident Indian, who has also sought action against media houses who base their debate shows on caste or religious lines.
The petition urged the court to direct the constitution of a committee headed by a former apex court judge to closely watch the election process and check the fairness of the ECI.
The petition said the communalism of Indian politics and caste-based parties were a “great threat to the spirit of the Constitution”.
Ms. Mansukhani, through her counsel Arup Banerjee, said “India is beginning to look like Turkey under Erdogan or Russia under Putin, which is turning towards a populist majoritarian leader and right-wing politics for its salvation”.
“The essential component of a constitutional democracy is its ability to give and secure for its citizenry a representative form of government, elected freely and fairly, and comprising of a polity whose members are men and women of high integrity and morality,” the petition said.
“On other hand Mr. Narendra Modi and his Bhartiya Janta Party have been symbols of communalism in India for more than two decades and even in their political manifesto, BJP speaks of the construction of a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, though the same has been tempered with a pledge to do so within the constitutional framework,” the petition said.
The petition said “it is not about the Congress and the BJP. All other national and regional parties also are part of the same game of Hindu-Muslim”.
“On the eve of earlier elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari to ask for his endorsement of Congress by urging the Muslims to vote for the party and the Imam obliged…” the petition said.
The petition said India was witnessing a “crisis of empathy, quality, fairness, integrity, honesty, and intellectual capability among the members of its legislatures, both at the Centre as well as in the States’ level”.
The country is also witnessing an “alarmingly high number” of people with criminal backgrounds entering politics. The petition alleges that there is a “new trend of giving tickets to those who spread communal hatred and do caste or religion based politics”.