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EC issues notice to Rahul Gandhi for 'panauti', pickpocket remarks targeting PM Narendra Modi

EC issues notice to Rahul Gandhi for 'panauti', pickpocket remarks targeting PM Narendra Modi
New Delhi, The Election Commission (EC) issued a show-cause notice to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday for his "panauti", "pickpocket" and "loan waiver for the super rich" jibes at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and asked him to respond by Saturday. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had approached the poll panel against the former Congress president, saying it was "unbecoming" of a "very senior leader" to use such language.

The EC reminded Gandhi that the Model Code of Conduct prohibits leaders from making unverified allegations against political rivals.

The Congress leader used those words targeting the prime minister at recent rallies in poll-bound Rajasthan.

In its representation to the EC, the BJP had asserted that the allegation of grant of waivers to industrialists of Rs 14,00,000 crore over the last nine years was "not borne out on facts".

The EC notice said the expression "panauti" ex-facie falls in the equity of the prohibition of section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, dealing with corrupt practices.

Clause 2, sub section (ii) of section 123 states that any person who induces or attempts to induce a candidate or an elector to believe that he, or any person in whom he is interested, will become or will be rendered an object of divine displeasure or spiritual censure, shall be deemed to interfere with the free exercise of the electoral right of such a candidate or elector, the notice reminded Gandhi.

The Congress leader had used the "panauti" barb against Modi in a poll speech in Rajasthan as the prime minister had attended the World Cup cricket final that India lost to Australia after 10 consecutive wins in the tournament.

A Hindi slang, "panauti" loosely refers to someone who brings bad luck.

The former Congress president took the "pickpocket" dig at Modi during a poll speech on Wednesday, alleging that the prime minister diverts people's attention while industrialist Gautam Adani picks their pockets. This is how pickpockets operate, he had alleged.

The notice also recalled a general advisory issued by the EC, in which the poll panel had expressed concerns at the "plummeting level of political discourse" during electioneering.

The commission also told Gandhi about a Supreme Court observation that if freedom of speech and expression is protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, the right to reputation is also considered to be an inextricable part of the right to life protected by Article 21 and "balancing these two rights is a constitutional necessity".

"Accordingly, you are requested to provide your explanation on the allegation made and to show causes as to why action as deemed fit for alleged violation of Model Code of Conduct and relevant penal provisions is not initiated by the commission.

"Your reply, if any, be reached by 6.00 pm of November 25. If no reply is received by then, action deemed fit will be taken by the commission," the notice said.

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