Updated: October 28, 2019 11:08:49 am
During campaigning for the state elections in Mumbai, the Election Commission (EC) prima facie has found at least three cases where candidates of political parties appeared to be giving communally-charged speeches, including one by Mumbai BJP president Mangal Prabhat Lodha. In another instance, the EC found a man putting up content online that could possibly cause a rift between two sects in Mulund.
Of these four cases, FIRs have been registered into three instances, while the case of Lodha is still being processed by the EC.
According to EC officials, three of these cases took place in Mumbai suburbs that has 26 Assembly segments.
The first incident took place at Santacruz, where AIMIM candidate Arif Shaikh allegedly made a hate speech during a rally at Daulat Nagar. The local police lodged an FIR against Shaikh under Section 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, etc) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 125 of the Representation of the People’s Act (promoting enmity between classes in connection with election). Both these sections carry a maximum punishment of three years of imprisonment.
On October 19, an FIR was registered against BJP candidate Ramesh Singh Thakur for allegedly making a communally-charged speech in Malwani constituency, which has a Muslim majority. Aslam Shaikh of the Congress went on to win the seat.
An EC official said, “He had threatened people in Malwani to vote for him, else he would destroy them. Our staff filed a complaint, on the basis of which, an FIR was registered under sections 153 A of the IPC and 125 of the RPA.”
The same day, the Mulund police had booked a person named Bhushan Patil for posting content on social media against BJP candidate Mihir Kotecha, allegedly meant to cause problems between two sects in the area. An EC official said that it was not clear if Patil was affiliated to any party.
On October 16, BJP city unit head Lodha allegedly delivered a communally-charged speech at Mumbadevi constituency of south Mumbai, referring to bombs and bullets being manufactured in “lanes within 5 km” from the venue of his rally that he held in support of the local Shiv Sena candidate.
Based on a report in The Indian Express and the video recorded by EC personnel, the Returning Officer (RO) of Mumbaidevi had issued a showcause notice to Lodha, Sena candidate Pandurang Sakpal and the organiser of the meeting. While Lodha won his Malabar Hill seat in the October 21 polls with the highest vote share in the city, Sakpal lost from Mumbadevi.
Lodha, in his reply to the showcause notice, had claimed that his speech was misrepresented and taken out of context. “After perusal of the responses and the recorded speech, a report will be prepared by the RO and submitted to the district election officer for further action if it is found to be in violation of the model code of conduct,” said the EC official.
The official added that a person from the EC team video records most speeches given by candidate. “It should be strong evidence to prosecute.”
A senior police officer said that depending on the evidence, chargesheets would be filed in the cases.
(with inputs from Sadaf Modak)
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