By LE Desk

New Delhi, March 9: The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea to “prohibit” the conduct of Assembly election in West Bengal in an “unequal manner” in eight phases and direct a CBI probe into the use of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ as a rallying slogan in the run-up to the polls.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde initially asked the petitioner, advocate M.L. Sharma, to approach the High Court or the Election Commission of India.

The court at one point also said “in a given case, it is a corrupt practice in appealing for votes using religion” and the petitioner would be better advised to approach the Election Commission. The court finally and categorically told Sharma that it was dismissing his case, The Hindu reported.

Sharma, a Supreme Court advocate, had arraigned Union Home Minister Amit Shah and West Bengal BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari as respondents. The petition said the CBI should launch a probe under the Indian Penal Code and the Representation of People Act. He said they raised the religious slogan of ‘Jai Shri Ram,’ creating disharmony and added it was “an attack upon the citizen of India for provoking, effecting their mind to fight among themselves and to give vote in their favour for electoral benefits”.

The lawyer had also made the Election Commission of India, the Union of India and the CBI respondents in the petition.

Sharma said political parties that used religious slogans should be debarred from participating in “any election in the country”.

“Any kind of the appeal by any religious persons, group, temple, mosque, church and others to cast their vote in favour of a specific party must be counted a serious violation of the law and an offence not only under the Act but also under IPC, being a fraud upon the Constitution and citizens of India, and they must be barred to fight election or to participate in any election in future,” the petition had said.

West Bengal will go to the polls in eight phases.

Assam will see three-phase voting, starting March 27. Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will be held in single phases on April 6. Counting of votes for the four States and one Union Territory will be done on May 2.

“No law has yet been framed empowering the Election Commission to adopt an unequal treatment among the five States as per their whim. Conducting election in eight phases and other States in one phase, especially when West Bengal has not faced any terrorist attack or under disputed war zone, is a clear case of violation of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution,” the petition had said.

It said the eight-phase poll in West Bengal was declared “without disclosing valid reasons, respondent cannot declare voting in different style/phase/manner to facilitate political demand for a specific party, that is, BJP.”

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