The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea that sought directions to the Election Commission to stop it from holding the Assembly elections in West Bengal in an “unequal manner” in eight phases, The Hindu reported. The plea, filed by Advocate ML Sharma, also sought directions to the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate the use of “Jai Shri Ram” as a slogan in election campaigns.
In his petition, Sharma contended that holding the elections in West Bengal alone in eight phases was a violation of Right to Equality under Article 14 of the Constitution, Bar and Bench reported.
“There is no law [that] has been framed yet empowering the election commission to adopt an unequal treatment of election among the five states as per their whim,” the petition stated, according to Bar and Bench. “Conducting election in eight phases while other states in one phase especially when West Bengal has not facing any terrorist attack or under disputed war zone. It’s a clear case of violation of Art[icle] 14 of the Constitution of India.”
The elections to the 294 seats in West Bengal will be held in eight phases from March 27 to April 29. The results will be declared on May 2, the Election Commission had announced last month. However, three other states and Union Territories Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will go to polls simultaneously, in a single phase on April 6. Assam, meanwhile, will vote in three phases, between March 27 and April 6. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also questioned the poll body’s decision to hold elections in eight phases, accusing it of functioning under the influence of the Centre.
Meanwhile, Sharma, in his petition also objected to the use of “Jai Shri Ram”, a slogan hailing Hindu deity Ram, in election campaigns. He sought to make Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari respondents in the case, according to The Hindu.
“Secularism is an unalterable basic structure of the Constitution,” Sharma said in his plea, according to Bar and Bench. “Using religious provocative slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’ has been creating communal disharmony and hatred among citizens of India.”
He submitted that the use of the slogan amounted to violation of sections 123 and 125 of the Representation of People Act, Bar and Bench reported.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, however, dismissed the plea and asked him to approach a High Court or the Election Commission, The Hindu reported.
“We don’t agree with you,” the bench said, according to Bar and Bench. “We have read the whole case, dismissed.”