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Indian court dismisses plea to disqualify Modi from election

The petitioner argued that the prime minister was seeking votes in the name of religious deities

The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a plea to disqualify Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi from running in any elections for six years. The petitioner alleged that the prime minister had appealed for votes in the “name of god and place of worship.”

Modi is running for the third time in Varanasi – a sacred Hindu city on the banks of the Ganges River and key pilgrimage site. 

The petitioner, Anand S Jondhale, cited a speech made by the prime minister on April 9, in which it is claimed that he invoked Hindu and Sikh deities when appealing for votes. The complainant, a lawyer by profession, further argued that Modi made comments against “opposite political parties as favoring Muslims,” according to Live Law. 

Jondhale argued that Modi’s speeches have the potential to “create hatred amongst voters on the line of caste and religion” and sought action as per the Model Code of Conduct – a series of guidelines for political parties and candidates enforced by the Election Commission of India (ECI). The lawyer urged the ECI to register an FIR against the prime minister and bar him from running for office for six years under the Representation of the People Act of 1951

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The court said the petition was “thoroughly misconceived” for multiple reasons, including that the petitioner had already submitted a complaint to the polling body and there was no occasion for him to invoke the extraordinary jurisdiction.

“It is not permissible for this court to direct the ECI to take a particular view on the petitioner complaint,” the court said, noting that the ECI is obliged to take an independent view and act, if necessary, on any complaint. 

The complaint was heard amid accusations by the opposition against Modi of hate speech against Muslims. Earlier this month, the prime minister triggered a massive controversy when he suggested that if the opposition, led by the Indian National Congress Party, came to power, it would distribute the country’s wealth among “those who have more children.” Modi’s critics alleged that he was targeting the minority Muslim community with the remark.

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In the ensuing days, several petitions and letters from citizens’ groups were sent to the election body seeking action against Modi over alleged election code violations. The election body is examining complaints against the prime minister’s speech, media outlets have reported.

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April 30, 2024 at 11:56AM

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