SC on PIL against Congress toolkit

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The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking an investigation by the National Investigation Agency into the alleged Congress “toolkit” and subsequent suspension of the registration of Indian National Congress (INC) if the charges against them pertaining to “anti-national acts” are found true.

A bench comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices MR Shah asked the petitioner Advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha how a petition under Article 32 can be entertained against political propaganda.

“If you don’t like the toolkit, ignore it”, Justice Chandrachud said.

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Jha responded there was propaganda to use the term “Indian variant” for the Coronavirus mutant. He said that Singapore had taken objection to use of terms like “Singapore variant”.

“India is a democracy, you know?”, Justice Chandrachud then observed. He asked if the Court can control forms of political propaganda. The judge also said that the time of the Supreme Court was being taken up by “frivolous petitions”.

Justice Shah added that a criminal investigation is already pending in the ‘toolkit’ matter and said that the petitioner ought to avail remedies other than Article 32.

The Bench further noted that directions could not be issued under Article 32 as a general, umbrella petition could not be maintained under the same.

Accordingly, the Court suggested Jha to withdraw the plea to pursue alternate remedies. Following this, the petitioner sought permission to withdraw the petition with liberty to pursue alternate remedies.

The ‘toolkit’ reference is to a document allegedly created by Congress giving instructions and social-media strategies to its members to mobilize a campaign to defame India and Union Government for its handing of COVID second wave.

A bench comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices MR Shah heard the matter In today’s hearing,

The plea, filed by Advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha, seeks for directions to the Central Government to register a preliminary inquiry pertaining to the “toolkit”, disclose whether any offence under Sections 124A, 153A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, exist, and secure the custody of the toolkit.

It has further been prayed that guidelines should be issued to each and every political party as well as individuals to stop “all kind of hoardings and portraying anti-national stance including the usage of photos of funeral and dead bodies, naming of mutants after India and Indian Prime Minister and calling out a single religion for COVID-19”.

Lastly, the plea seeks for the suspension of the registration of INC in the event that the charges against them for committing “anti-national acts” and “playing with the lives of common people” are found true.