EC bans rallies by Azam Khan, Amit Shah; tells UP govt to initiate criminal proceedings against them

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NEW DELHI: Taking serious note of the communally-charged campaign speeches by Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan and BJP general secretary Amit Shah in Uttar Pradesh, the Election Commission has directed the state administration to withhold permission for all public meetings to be addressed or attended by the two leaders for the remaining part of the campaign. The poll panel on Friday also pulled up the UP authorities for failing to act promptly, particularly in Azam Khan’s case as no FIR had been filed against him over his repeated communal references.

Observing that “the state government machinery is soft-pedalling in taking required action against him (Khan)”, the EC directed the UP chief secretary to ensure that FIRs be filed immediately and criminal proceedings initiated against both Khan and Shah. While FIRs are yet to be filed against Khan, Shah faces prospects of immediate arrest, having withdrawn his plea on Thursday from the Allahabad high court seeking a stay on his arrest and quashing of the FIRs filed against him.

The commission has asked the UP chief secretary and chief electoral officer to file a compliance report in respect of its instructions by 5pm on Saturday.

Observing that the provocative speeches of both Khan and Shah during the course of the UP campaign were highly prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious communities and also likely to disturb peace and public tranquility, the EC on Friday invoked its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to bar the two from participating in future public meetings in the state. “No permission should be granted for holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows, etc, by the district administration authorities, where the above two leaders are expected or likely to participate,” it directed.

The panel also instructed the UP administration to take all preventive measures under the relevant provisions of Section 107 to 110 and Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, to ensure that no act of commission of omission is resorted to by Shah and Khan, which has the effect of prejudicially affecting public tranquility and law and order.

While Shah was issued an EC notice on April 7 and FIRs filed against him in Shamli and Bijnore under Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act and Section 153A of the IPC, for his communal remarks made earlier this month in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Bijnore, Azam Khan was slapped with a commission notice on April 9 for his personal digs at both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and his controversial statement crediting Muslim soldiers for Kargil victory.

On April 10, however, Khan issued yet another controversial statement in Rampur, calling Modi a “murderer” and Amit Shah “a fascist and murderer of humanity”. He also reiterated his Kargil remark.

The commission said it will issue a separate show-cause notice to Khan over his April 10 utterances.

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