SC rejects plea challenging EC’s decision to hold West Bengal Assembly polls in eight phases

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea challenging the Election Commission’s decision to conduct assembly elections over eight phases in West Bengal and seeking to bar the BJP and its leaders from using “Jai Shri Ram” as a slogan during the campaign.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde initially told the petitioner to approach the Calcutta High Court.

“I rely upon a judgement. This is not the matter of election petition. One party is using a religious slogan. Why should I go to the high court?” advocate M L Sharma, the petitioner in the case, told the bench.

“You are asking for prosecution. How can we pass such an order. The only power lied with the high court, that to the election petition,” the bench, which also comprised Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, told Sharma.

When the petitioner referred to a 1978 judgement of the apex court, the bench asked him to show the paragraphs in the verdict saying the top court can entertain a plea regarding malpractice in campaigning when the poll process starts .

Sharma said the matter be heard tomorrow, and the bench said, “We cannot read it again and again, read it right now.”

“Alright, we don’t agree with you. Dismissed,” the bench added.

The plea had sought the apex court’s direction to stop the poll panel from conducting eight-phase elections in West Bengal, alleging that it violates Article 14 (right to life) and Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

On February 26, the Election Commission had announced the schedule for assembly elections to be held in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

While the assembly polls in West Bengal will be held over eight rounds from March 27-April 29, polling in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will be held in one phase on April 6 and in Assam over three phases.

In his plea, Sharma had also sought a direction to the CBI to register an FIR into the alleged chanting of religious slogans during electioneering in West Bengal.

The chanting of “Jai Shri Ram, other religious slogans are creating disharmony” and is an offence under the Indian Penal Code and the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the plea had said.

“Whether using a provocative religious slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is for electoral benefits as well as others is not violated S.123(3) & 125 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951,” reads the legal question raised in the plea.

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