Code violation: EC pulls up rlys, AI

New Delhi, Apr 2 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 4/2/2019 12:58:15 PM IST

Election Commission of India has come down severely on both Air India and Indian Railways for their casualness in enforcing election code, as the commission cracks its whip on misuse of state machinery in the run up to general elections. 

In letters voicing its displeasure to both Air India and Indian Railways, the election watchdog reprimanded them on Tuesday for their “lackadaisical” approach toward code violations and demanded that the two companies submit their respective reports within the week.

To the Indian Railways, the election commission writes in its notice: “It has come to the notice of the commission that tea cups were provided to the passengers in the train of the Indian Railway by the NGO, namely ‘Sankalp”’, which contained the political slogan of the Bharatiya Janata Party and such matter is closely related to violation of the Model Code of Conduct”.

“The commission, taking cognisance of the incident, has directed that the matter may be looked into immediately and a report may be furnished by 11:00 hours on April 4 that decision may be taken by the commission in the matter.”  The development comes after a passenger noticed paper tea cups that railway catering used to serve refreshments bore the slogan “Main bhi chowkidar”—a campaign the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is using to drum up support for another term.  After the image he tweeted went viral, Indian Railways defended itself saying the cups were used without its approval, but said later that it had withdrawn the tea cups and penalised the contractor.

In a second letter—this one on another code violation— the commission criticised the railways for not complying with its instructions.

This reprimand pertains to a separate code violation that came days before the tea cup issue. In this one, Indian Railways was found issuing tickets with Narendra Modi’s image on it. Railways said then that it was an “unintentional and inadvertent mistake”.

“The commission expresses its considered displeasure over the non-compliance of the commission’s instructions especially when the Model Code of Conduct is in force and the lackadaisical approach towards enforcing the Code,” the letter said. “The commission has also decided that disciplinary action be taken against the officer in-charge and a report be submitted to the Election Commission within a week.”

Railways hasn’t commented on either Election Commission’s letter or its notice. 

In a similarly worded letter to Civil Aviation Secretary PS Kharola, the election watchdog said that Air India failed to respond to its notice. Its deadline for response was two days ago. 

“The Commission expresses its serious displeasure over the non-compliance of the Commission’s lawful instructions and lackadaisical approach towards enforcing the Model Code of Conduct,” the poll panel said in its letter dated April 2, 2019.

The commission said its displeasure should also be conveyed to Air India Chairman-Managing Director Ashwani Lohani for “the lapse of the organisation”. 

Air India ran into trouble for its boarding passes bearing photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

The Election Commission issued a notice of the election violation to the Civil Aviation Ministry on March 26. That notice said that the airline was found in violation of the model code of conduct, and referred to clause VII of the code which states that “Issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer ... regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided”.

Model Code of Conduct came into force on March 10, when the commission announced election schedule.

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