Defending Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi against whom two FIRs have been lodged for violating the Model Code of Conduct, senior party leader Arun Jaitley said that Constitutional institutions miss out the larger vision when they react in haste and even anger.
"Every time senior politicians cast their vote, a large number of media persons assemble outside the polling station. They want their comments on their own vote and also on the trend of the elections. The politicians freely interact with the media. They make short comments and then leave. This is precisely what Mr. Narendra Modi did. He was not expected to be rude enough and give the media no comments," Jaitley wrote in his blog.
"The Election Commission of India has directed that an FIR under section 126(1) (a) and section 126(1) (b) be registered against Mr. Modi and the media organizations which have telecast his bite through the media. The substance of the allegations in the Election Commission's order is that within the 'polling area', a 'public meeting' has been held. Polling was in progress in various parts of the country. Since the comment has been telecast during the polling hours and the Lotus symbol displayed, both Mr. Narendra Modi and the media are liable. From the Election Commission's order, it is not clear as to what the definition of 'polling area' is. Is it the polling station? In any event the comment was made outside the polling station. The Election Commission's order makes it appear that the entire country could be a polling area since the media comment could be seen in every part of the country," he added.
He further stated, "When Constitutional institutions react in haste and even anger, they miss out the larger vision. Criminal law provisions are to be strictly construed. Their meaning can't be stretched out. A public meeting is a public meeting, the media bite is not a public meeting. If media is to be prosecuted for displaying comments of politicians on a voting day such a provision will fall foul of constitutional guarantee of free speech since it is not covered by the prescribed restrictions under Article 19 (2)."
He argued that if the whole country is a polling area, since scattered and phased elections are on in several parts of India, the political rallies and their reportage by the media when polling is going on in some other parts of the country, would attract penal consequences.
He quoted examples of Prof. Amartya Sen, who he claimed to have spoken to the media after casting his vote.
"The Prime Minister spoke to the media after casting his vote in Assam. So did most other political leaders. I am not pleading for their prosecution. I am only illustrating that an interpretation being given by the Election Commission may fall foul. Article 324 of the Constitution is a reservoir of residuary jurisdiction. It can't impact areas occupied by law. It cannot dilute the import and content of the right to free speech," he added.
A case was registered against Modi for flashing the party's election symbol 'lotus' outside a polling booth in Gujarat.
The poll body had found Modi to be in violation of the provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951.
The EC stated that it was evident from Modi's address that he intended to influence and affect the result of elections in the constituencies going to polls today, not only in Ahmedabad but also in all other constituencies in the State of Gujarat and elsewhere in the country.
"The Commission is of the view that by holding that meeting and also by addressing the same today when the polling is going on in the entire State of Gujarat and in different parts of the country, Narendra Modi has violated the provisions of Sections 126 (1) (a) and 126 (l) (b) of R.P. Act 1951. Therefore, the Commission directs under Article 324 of the Constitution and all other legal provisions enabling it in this behalf that complaints/ FIR as the case may be, should be filed against Sh. Narendra Modi and all others who were involved in the convening and holding of the said meeting, under the provisions of Sections 126 (l) (a) and 126 (1) (b)." said the EC in its notice.
The poll body had reportedly asked the Director-General-of-Police (DGP) of Gujarat and state chief secretary to initiate action against Modi for displaying the Lotus.
The EC has acted after the Congress lodged a complaint with it. The poll body had also sought a report from the district Collector of Ahmedabad on Narendra Modi's press conference earlier today.