Supreme Court refuses to entertain PIL against Congress ‘Toolkit’

Justice DY Chandrachud

New Delhi, July 5 : The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a plea seeking a NIA probe into the alleged Congress “Toolkit“, and also suspension of registration of the Congress party if charges against the party of indulging in anti-national acts and playing with the lives of people were found true.

A bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah queried the petitioner, advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha, how could a petition under Article 32 be entertained by the court against political propaganda? Justice Chandrachud said: “If you don’t like the toolkit, ignore it”.

Jha submitted before the bench that there was a propaganda to use the term “Indian variant” for the coronavirus mutant and cited that Singapore had taken objection to use of terms like “Singapore variant”. Singapore had banned everything, said Jha. The bench replied, “But, India is a democracy, you know”, and queried Jha how could courts control the forms of political propaganda. Justice Shah said that the court cannot issue directions under Article 32.

Justice Chandrachud said: “Mr Jha, please withdraw this. You may pursue your remedies under appropriate law”. The bench noted that precious time of the Supreme Court was being taken up by ‘frivolous petitions’. “All of these petitions take precious time of the Supreme Court”, said the bench.

Justice Shah added that a criminal investigation is already pending in the ‘Toolkit’ matter. The bench noted that directions could not be issued under Article 32 as a general, umbrella petition could not be maintained under the same. After a brief hearing in the matter, Jha agreed to withdraw the petition with liberty to pursue alternate remedies.

In May, this year, the BJP had alleged a ‘Toolkit’ has been prepared by the Congress party to tarnish the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Congress party had accused BJP leaders of releasing a forged and fabricated letter and termed it as an attempt to divert the attention of the people and to hide the failure of the government in handling the health crisis.

The plea moved by Jha urged the top court to issue direction to the Centre to prepare guidelines against hoardings of essential items during the Covid-19 pandemic. The petition named the Indian National Congress, the Union government and the Election Commission as respondents.

“Issue a writ, order, or direction in the nature of mandamus or any other direction to the respondent no. 2 (Union government) to register a preliminary enquiry pertaining to the alleged Toolkit for the purpose of enquiring whether the Toolkit or any actions pursuant to it, disclose any offence under Section 124-A , 153A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code and Section of the UAPA, 1967, and for the said purpose to secure the custody of the said Toolkit”, said one of the prayers of the plea before the top court.

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