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Plea seeks to curb communal debates

The plea demanded the EC take strict action against representatives of parties and media channels who make references to caste or religion.

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The Supreme Court has asked political parties and their representatives to avoid all references to caste and religion over the next month as the country prepares for general elections. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued a notice to the Election Commission to this effect, following a PIL filed by an NRI citizen seeking the poll panel's response within a week.

The petitioner, Harpreet Mansukhani, said parties' spokespersons and representatives are seen on television debates and social media platforms using caste and religion references to influence the electoral process, which goes against the Constitution.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioner, said parties claim to oppose communalism and casteism, but still give tickets to candidates who have a known history of spreading communal hatred. He added that several of these candidates even go on to represent their parties in Parliament.

Statements made by party representatives on TV debates or social media escape the EC's net, since these aren't candidates who will contest the polls. The petition called this a corrupt practice.

The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, directed the EC to respond to the petition by next Monday.

The petition made special note of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who had earlier remarked about the caste of Lord Hanuman, and Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde for his controversial remarks over Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's caste and religion. Similarly, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi's visit to the Imam of Jama Masjid, to seek Muslim votes for the party, didn't go down well with the petitioner.

The plea demanded the EC take strict action against representatives of parties and media channels who make references to caste or religion.

Just not done

The petition said parties’ representatives making statements in TV studios or social media fly under the EC’s radar because they are not candidates and the remarks weren’t made while campaigning.

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