Why BHU VC's participation in PM Modi's Varanasi campaign violates rules
The active participation of Banaras Hindu University Vice Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's campaign in Varanasi, has ignited a political row.
As VC of BHU, Tripathi is a central government employee and is therefore barred from being part of events organised by political parties.
Tripathi accompanied Modi during his roadshow that began from near BHU as well as his visit to the Kashi Vishwanath temple in the city.
Terming this as a violation of the rules, the Congress has demanded that Tripathi be sacked as the VC and that PM Modi provide an explanation regarding Tripathi's involvement.
"The Vice Chancellor is a government servant and he has violated the rules by becoming part of a political gathering. He should be sacked immediately. Secondly, the Prime Minister must explain why a government servant was brought to a political campaign," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told Catch.
"The Central government funds BHU and therefore it is highly improper that its VC took part in a BJP event," he added.
The Congress may have a point. Former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi agrees that the rules have been violated.
"A government servant cannot be part of a political meeting, event or rally unless he is on election duty," Quraishi says referring to Tripathi's case.
There is a historical parallel here. On June 12, 1975, the Allahabad High Court declared Indira Gandhi's election from the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha seat in 1971 as void. The reason given was that her election agent Yashpal Kapoor was a government servant and that she had used government officials for election related work. Kapoor had been an Officer on Special Duty in the her government.
What the rules say
There are two rules that seem to have been violated in Tripathi's case
First is Section 123(7) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. It holds as a violation the following:
"The obtaining or procuring or abetting or attempting to obtain or procure by a candidate or his agent or, by any other person [with the consent of a candidate or his election agent], any assistance (other than the giving of vote) for the furtherance of the prospects of that candidate’s election, from any person in the service of the government and belonging to any of the following classes, namely: gazetted officers; stipendiary judges and magistrates; members of the armed forces of the Union; members of the police forces; excise officers; revenue officers; such other class of persons in the service of the government as may be prescribed."
A VC is a gazetted officer of the central government. This violation could lead to imprisonment of the candidate and if he/she is elected, the election shall be declared void. This would affect candidates in all the seats in which Tripathi accompanied PM Modi.
The second is Rule 23 (i) of the Government Servant's Conduct Rules. It says that “no government servant shall take part in, subscribe in aid of, or assist in any way, any political movement in India” or attend meetings organised by a political party.
However, it does provide exceptions in case it is a public meeting held with due permission and that the official doesn't take part in conducting the meeting.
This exception can be used as an escape route by the VC. But the Congress alleges that the VC's presence does give the impression that he is a sympathiser of the BJP, which is also a violation.
In this context, Rule 23(i) states: "...frequent or regular attendance by a government servant at meetings of any particular political party is bound to create the impression that he is a sympathiser of the aims and objects of that party and that in his official capacity he may favor or support the members of that particular party. Conduct which gives cause for such an impression may well be construed as assisting a political movement".
It is well known that as BHU VC, Tripathi has taken part in RSS functions on campus and outside.
The Congress also argues that Modi's roadshow didn't even have the due permission.
KC Mittal, the head of Congress' legal cell, has complained to the Election Commission that PM Modi's roadshow from BHU was conducted without the necessary permission from the competent authority.