The Election Commission has demanded “empirical evidence” from the Karnataka Congress by Sunday evening in response to its “corruption rate card” newspaper ads that attacked the BJP.
The notice was sent on Saturday after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) filed a formal complaint.
The panel observed that it looks “prima facie” that the Congress has “violated” provision of the model code of conduct by releasing the advertising, citing sections of the MCC, the Representation of the People Act, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Karnataka’s assembly elections are scheduled for May 10, and in the run-up to the vote, the opposition Congress party disseminated posters and adverts that claimed the current BJP government was a “trouble engine” and listed “corruption rates” in the state from 2019 to 2023.
The Election Commission (EC) notice noted, “It is a fair assumption that INC possesses the material/empirical/verifiable evidence based on which these specific/explicit ‘facts’ have been published.”
“Convey the empirical evidence of the same, for example, the evidences for rates for kinds of appointments and transfers, kinds of jobs, and kinds of commission mentioned in the advertisement given by you along with if any explanation, by 19.00 hrs on 7th May 2023, and also put that in public domain,” the letter commanded to the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).If the party doesn’t provide up the proof, it has until May 7 at 7 p.m. to explain “why action should not be initiated against you for violating the model code of conduct and relevant legal provisions under the Representation of the People Act and IPC.”
Moreover, the polling body affirmed, “Criticising the policy and governance of opponent parties is a right guaranteed under the Constitution and an essential function of various political actors under the Indian electoral process.””However, while exercising this right and performing this essential function, various political parties are expected to uphold high standards of public discourse and to adhere to various provisions of MCC and relevant laws,” it said.
It noted that while broad claims about the opponents’ supposed lack of accomplishment, wrongdoing, and failure to ensure corruption-free governance do float in political campaigns, specific accusations and charges must be distinguished, and the same must be backed by verifiable evidence.
Statements like “making specific charges, without any factual basis is an action proscribed by the penal statutes” or “without any corresponding informational verification vitiates the electoral process by disturbing level playing field by potentially misleading the elector, marring the exercise of making informed choices,” the poll watchdog said.
The EC stated that the advertisement’s claims and insinuations were not generalised.
The commercial is highly precise in its claims, implying that the entire political and administrative apparatus of the government is corrupt and up for sale. To do so “brings into disrepute the entire administration, which has the potential to foment a feeling of distrust and undermine the legitimacy of the governance system at large, which otherwise is vital for the smooth conduct of the poll itself,” it noted.
Votes will be counted on May 13 after the high-decibel campaign for the Karnataka Assembly election on May 10 concludes on Monday evening.