Is FIR against Modi for violation of model poll code of conduct justified?

GN Bureau | May 1, 2014



Narendra Modi, Gujarat chief minister and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, landed in a soup moments after casting his vote in on April 30. He held a miniature metal lotus – the party’s symbol – to take a ‘selfie’ with his cellphone and then addressed the waiting media, holding the lotus in full display of the television cameras. And all this within 100 metres of the polling station – an act deemed illegal under section 130 of the Representation of the People Act-1951 (RP Act).

As the Congress, and several other opposition parties, cried foul, calling it a clear case of violation of the election model code of conduct (MCC), the election commission (EC) sent a notice within hours, ordering the state police to register an FIR against the chief minister.

And then all hell broke loose.

The BJP claims it is a case of witch-hunting, with Modi himself hinting that his action did not merit filing an FIR. "I will never forget April 30. One can understand if someone points (threatens with) a knife, a pistol or a gun (and FIR is registered). But do you know why FIR was registered against me? Because I showed a lotus to the people," he said at a campaign rally in Tirupati, according to PTI.

The EC, though, felt it was a clear case of “violation of provisions of Section 126 of RP Act 1951 by Sh. Narendra Modi & Others”. Besides displaying the metal lotus, the commission also observed that Modi addressing the media was also violation of law. Modi’s address, the EC letter to Gujarat chief secretary and the state director general of police stated, “was in the nature of political speech intended and calculated to influence and affect the result of elections in the constituencies going to polls today...”

“We have registered an FIR against Chief Minister Narendra Modi as directed by the EC under Section 126 (1) (a) and 126 (1) (b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code,” DCP (Crime) Himanshu Shukla was quoted in the Indian Express.

While the BJP considers it an overreach for a minor incident that should have been ignored, many others say the EC was left with no option but to have Modi booked. A man of Modi’s stature should be extra careful of being in the right side of law, they argue.

So is the FIR justified?

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