EC curbs campaigning by Yogi, Mayawati, Maneka and Azam

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India's Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi

The poll panel barred Yogi Adityanath from campaigning for 72 hours and Mayawati for 48 hours, starting from 6 am tomorrow.

The Supreme Court on Monday ticked off the Election Commission for being "toothless" in acting against politicians breaching the model code of conduct through hate speeches and appealing for votes in the name of religion and forced a chastised EC to impose a campaign ban on UP CM Yogi Adityanath, BSP chief Mayawati, Union minister Maneka Gandhi and SP leader Azam Khan.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi summoned a representative of the EC for Tuesday while agreeing to examine the poll panel's contention that it has limited legal power to deal with hate speeches of politicians during electioneering. The Election Commission noted that it had already advised the chief minister to be more careful about his public statements on 5 April after his controversial speech that allegedly politicised the army action.

The EC may have to explain on Tuesday how it chose to take action when Mayawati and Adityanath had not filed reply to the notices.

The EC reprimanded Khan saying his "indecent", "derogatory and totally uncalled for" statement violated the model code of conduct and banned him from holding any public meetings, processions, rallies, road shows and interviews or public utterances in media in connection with the ongoing elections for 72 hours from 6 a.m. on Tuesday. "The hurried nature of the action shows that it was taken under pressure".

The court has also asked what action it could take against leaders in case of violation of the Model Code.

"This will be remembered as a Black Day in the history of the EC", she said at a press conference.

EC's counsel Amit Sharma informed the court that notices were issued to both Mayawati and Adityanath on April 11 but they had not filed their replies.

In his response to the notice, Adityanath said he made the apparently communal statement in retaliation to BSP chief Mayawati's appeal to Muslim voters in Deoband, which was also taken note of by the EC.

The commission, which has been criticised by political parties across the spectrum for either turning a blind eye to poll code violations or being too slow, issued the gag orders soon after.

The poll panel told Mayawati that being a senior leader, she should have "desisted" from making such comments that have the "undertone and propensity to polarise the elections" in several constituencies due to the reach of the media.

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