New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday took note of the Election Commission’s action against politicians who made statements violating the Model Code of Conduct.

The apex court said, “It seems Election Commission has woken up to its power and taken action against politicians.” The observation came in response to the EC’s ban on politicians Yogi Adityanath, Mayawati, Azam Khan and Maneka Gandhi.

Meanwhile, it also refused to consider Mayawati’s plea against EC for the 48-hour ban on her from campaigning.

While hearing a plea filed by an NRI highlighting the increase in hate and divisive speeches during campaigning for Lok Sabha elections of 2019, the court had sought to know from the poll body on how it was empowered to deal with religious and hate speeches during campaigning for Lok Sabha elections.

On Monday, the apex court had given the EC a day’s time to explain its lawyer’s submission that it was largely “powerless” and “toothless” to act against religious and hate speeches by candidates.

The petition seeks strict action against political leaders and party representatives spreading hatred on religious and caste lines through the media, especially social media platforms.

During the course of hearing, the court found that the ECI had issued notices for hate speeches and campaigning for votes on the basis of religion in only three cases so far, including those of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati.

The EC said Yogi had been issued an advisory. To that, the apex court reportedly asked, “What about Mayawati? She was supposed to reply to you by April 12… She has not replied. What does the law permit you to do in such cases?

When the lawyer representing EC said they needed to give time to people to reply, the court said, “Basically you are saying you are toothless and powerless against hate speeches. The most you can do is send a notice to the offending candidate. If the candidate replies, send him or her an advisory. Despite this, if there is a violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), you may then file a criminal complaint… That is all? Those are your powers under the law?”

EC submitted that it was indeed the only power the poll body had; it could not de-recognise or disqualify the person. The court then decided to examine the issue of the EC’s powers to deal with hate and defamatory election speeches and violations of the MCC.