Assembly elections | EC has powers to withdraw party’s symbol for abusive language, says Gopalaswami

Pointing reports of abusive language “questioning somebody’s birth,” Mr. Gopalaswami said such things are covered in the model code of conduct.

The Election Commission of India has the power to issue notice for withdrawal of a party’s symbol for abusive language against a candidate, said former Chief Election Commissioner N.Gopalaswami.

Speaking at a webinar on ‘Challenges in ensuring enhanced voter participation’ — a public interest initiative on the ‘Right to Vote’ by Nippon Paint and powered by The Hindu — on Saturday, Mr.Gopalaswami said symbol order is under the powers of the Election Commission.

“They cannot de-recognise a party. They can take away the symbol. I hope at some point of time the Election Commission takes things at that extreme and removes and in some cases comes on heavily, disassociating a particular party from a symbol, which will be in our circumstances a big blow. That step has to be taken wherever there is egregious violence or misconduct,” he said.

Pointing reports of abusive language “questioning somebody’s birth,” Mr.Gopalaswami said such things are covered in the model code of conduct.

“Earlier, they used to get a notice. The question is what next? I think the Commission in the last election indicated what next. Definitely they can issue a notice for withdrawal of the party’s symbol,” said Mr.Gopalaswami.

Stressing the need for increasing the turnout in elections, Mr.Gopalaswami said voters in urban constituencies such as in Chennai seem to be less enthusiastic in voting.

“Tamil Nadu has been a fairly high polling state. But urban voters seem to be thinking that their vote does not count,” he said.

Arguing against online voting, Mr.Gopalaswami said citizens committed to democracy must spend 30 minutes for visiting a polling station once in five years.

“Those with a higher income level have developed cynicism. Urban voters are slightly less enthusiastic. The skeptical voter may keep urban voting at a lower level,” he said.

Answering questions about punishment for those who don’t vote, Mr.Gopalaswami said voting was compulsory in only around 32 countries.

Mark Titus, director marketing, Nippon Paint India (Decorative Division) said corporates have to incentivise voting to increase turnout in elections.

The talking points of the webinar included suggestions for increasing participation in elections, lowering the age ceiling for postal ballot and electoral reforms for voter turnout.

The webinar was moderated by T.Ramakrishnan, Associate Editor, The Hindu. The TV Partner is News 18 Tamil.

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