New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) censured Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Sakshi Maharaj on Thursday for his controversial remarks at a rally in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and warned him that “stern actions" would follow for any future violations of the model code of conduct (MCC).

This was the first instance of the EC invoking the 2 January order of the Supreme Court banning the use of religion and caste to woo voters. In its censure order, the EC made a reference to the apex court’s ruling.

“Election Commission hereby censures you... and expects that you, being a reputed political leader/MP, shall be more circumspect in your public utterances during election time. You may also take note that in case of any violation of MCC in future, the commission shall take stern actions against you, using all powers available to it," the EC said in its order.

Referring to the apex court’s order, the EC’s missive added that Maharaj’s reply to the showcause notice was not satisfactory “because in the commission’s considered view, supported by observations of the Supreme Court, any statement to the effect of promoting enmity between different classes of society in connection with election on the grounds of religion made during electioneering or otherwise is violative of MCC".

Maharaj, at a rally on 6 January in Meerut, linked Muslims with population increase. The Congress filed a complaint following which the EC sent him a showcause notice.

In his response, the BJP MP said the statement was not made at a public or election meeting but at a conclave of holy men and hence was not violative of the MCC.

The MCC is a set of norms enforced by the EC during the electioneering process.

The model code came into force on 4 January when the EC announced the schedule for assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa.

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