“Approach High Court”: Plea seeking Investigation into Attack on Mamata Banerjee and Electoral Transparency in Supreme Court
A Full Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian, while hearing the PIL sought to investigate into Nandigram Violence, directs the petitioner to approach the Calcutta High Court.
The PIL had been instituted under Article 32 of the Constitution praying for direction to Union of India to investigate the incident against Chief Minister of West Bengal and issue guidelines against management of future incidents which affect the Electoral Machinery.
Petitioners had filed the petition for the issuance of appropriate writ in nature of Mandamus to investigate the incident wherein Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal was injured because not only was it an incident which could be categorized as an attack against a Constitutional Functionary but it would also affect voter confidence and influence them wrongly.
There were repeated allegations of the local parties that the Election Commission of India has hijacked the Assembly Elections in the garb of conducting free and fair elections and the steps taken by the Election Commission of India were discriminatory.
Mamta Banerjee claimed this incident to be intentional manhandling in presence of public. She also claimed that no police official was present at that time of program and it was a case of conspiracy.
The Election commission then directed that since the security of star campaigners further becomes far more sensitive during the election period because of additional criticality due to possible proximity with large crowds, and sensational impact of such incidence on law and order across state, established SoPs, including advance detailed programme, necessary permissions to hold rallies or road shows, deployment, use of bullet proof vehicle, if required as per security category of protectee.
The Commission also issued Instructions separately to the CEOs of all poll bound states/UTs to bring it to the notice of all Political Parties/ candidates, for strict compliance of the security of the star campaigners as per the category: of protection and local threat assessment in accordance with extant rules /guidelines / SOPs.
In addition, Election Commission of India also appointed Former DGP Intelligence Punjab, Sh. Anil Kumar Sharma as Special Police Observer for the General Elections to Legislative Assembly of West Bengal.
It was urged that power and authority of the Government can only derive from the will of the people in lieu of free, fair and genuine elections which is held at intervals, which is based on secret ballot and adult suffrage and Representation of the People Act follows the words of the international convention and promises to which India is a signatory.
Article 21(1) of UNDHR spells that everyone has the right to take part in the Government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives and for genuine elections.
The Law Commission however pointed out that the right to know and by extension, the right to accurate information on the basis of which to make an informed political choice, is severely undermined by the phenomenon of paid news and undisclosed political advertisement. This is a problem for the people to comprehend and make an informed choice as the different segments of media as well as social media which has gone on to influence the citizens in a big way has been coming up with news of conspiracy and at the same time of a gimmick being played by the ruling party in West Bengal which jeopardizes the idea of free and fair elections.
The Commission further went on to hold that because the status quo promotes ambiguity in an independent investigation of the incident and alleged attack is necessary so as to get the right information in front of the voters and give them a free choice. If such an investigation is not allowed, it would create petty difficulties in the future as any person can attack any Constitutional Functionary or worse still, any constitutional functionary could allege an attack to garner such sympathy which might result in them gaining votes and at the same time, undermining the sanctity of elections.
Since the alleged attack, the atmosphere in West Bengal has been one filled with allegations and counter-allegations by different political parties. The ruling party TMC has claimed that there has been a deep-rooted conspiracy against them and the BJP has 'called for investigations. The air in West Bengal is filled with the parties spewing vitriol at each other.
Because any attempt at promoting false news goes against the idea of democracy. Elections are an important aspect of a democratic government as Democracies are based upon the principles of public participation and the same gets affected if an incident which mars voters confidence is made into a poll issue by political parties baying for each other.
Because without any future guidelines to regulate such an incident and a SOP which would be operating in cases of such incidents in the future, the Elections would continue with such tricks being employed by the different political parties and may result in a scenario wherein no candidate is safe.
It is pleaded that Article 21 guarantees Right to Life which means a Right to Live Life with Dignity and the same can never be achieved to the highest standards possible if one cannot be an effective part of the government's decision making by exercising his right to vote.
Thus, it was prayed that the alleged attack on a Constitutional Functionary be investigated by an independent agency like CBI and the investigation be made public to strengthen the voter confidence.
It was also prayed to issue directions for the creation of a temporary body with extensive powers to look into election violence and punish the perpetrators, and for enhanced punishments for poll violence.
SHUBHAM AWASTHI & ORS vs UOI & ORS