No, India's top poll body official didn’t ignore question on violations of election guidelines

By: Annet Preethi Furtado
March 18 2024

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No, India's top poll body official didn’t ignore question on violations of election guidelines

Screenshot of X posts with captions claiming that CEC Rajiv Kumar dodged a journalist's query at an Election Commission press conference. (Source: X/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict False

A review of the complete press conference shows that CEC Rajiv Kumar replied to the journalist's question on Model Code of Conduct (MCC) violations.

Claim ID 7dacd60c

India's top poll-conducting body announced the schedule for the upcoming general elections in a press conference held on March 16. In the presser, the Election Commission of India (ECI) stated that starting April 19, voting will take place in seven phases, and the results will be out on June 4.

What's the claim?

In the wake of this announcement by the EC, a clip of a journalist asking a question regarding the authority's stance on hate speech and its approach to violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) during the March 16 press conference is being widely shared on social media platforms.

In the brief 39-second clip, journalist Ashlin Mathew from the National Herald asks, "You had said in your speech that there should be no hate speech…There will be a calibrated approach to MCC code violations. But there have been several complaints against the Prime Minister and Amit Shah, but the EC has not taken action against them. But you have taken action against the opposition leaders. So even if you take a calibrated approach, won't it be the Opposition leaders who get picked up more, who get notice from you more than the ruling party leaders?" After Mathew's question, a moderator invited another journalist to raise his query or comment. 

On X (formerly Twitter), this video was shared with a Hindi caption that translated to, "Can't answer one question and will conduct fair elections????" Another iteration of this post had text inside the viral video that read: "Hats off to her guts. A brave journalist asked, 'Why isn't the ECI taking action against Modi & Shah for their hate speeches?' But the spineless ECI skipped the question." One such X post garnered over 251,500 views at the time of writing.

A similar X post questioned the ECI for skipping the question and asked how India could expect a fair election.

The archives of such posts can be found here, here, and here.

Screenshots of X posts. (Source: X/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)

However, the viral video is an edited version. In the complete footage, we can see that a top ECI official answered Mathew's question later in the conference.

What did we find?

The livestream of the press conference is accessible on the official YouTube channel of the ECI. The announcement was made by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar, accompanied by Election Commissioners Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, alongside other members of the poll body.

After the schedule for the polls was announced, journalists were invited to pose their questions around the 58-minute mark of the livestream. 

Questions taken in rounds

At the end of the presentation and the opening of the floor to questions, the moderator stated that the CEC would take four to five questions in one go and that more questions could be asked after Kumar had answered the first round.

We noted that at 58:38, Mohit Dubey from NewsNation kicked off the session, followed by questions from two other journalists. Mathew was the fourth person to ask a question and raised her inquiry around the 1-hour and 45-second mark of the unedited footage of the conference. After her, another journalist was asked to raise his question.


As mentioned by the moderator, CEC Kumar then addressed the initial round of five questions in one go, eventually answering the hate speech/ MCC-related question featured in the viral video at the 1:10:22 timestamp of the extended video.


Therefore, as CEC Kumar was not addressing each question as soon as they were posed, the answer to Mathew's question was also not given immediately.

What did CEC Kumar say?

Addressing Mathew's question regarding a 'bias' in dealing with MCC violations such as hate speech, CEC Kumar termed it an allegation that required a response, adding, "You have the right to ask."

Responding to Mathew's question, Kumar then spoke about the Election Commission's approach, highlighting that over the past eight, ten, or 11 years, all allegations received had been thoroughly examined. He emphasized that notices had been issued wherever violations were established, clarifying that not every allegation has been investigated. Kumar likened these actions to moral sensors at the beginning of the electoral process, ensuring that regardless of the prominence of the individual involved, the election commission will not hesitate to take action against any confirmed violations.

Therefore, this segment of the press conference, which included CEC's answers to the viral question, has been left out in the clip circulating widely on social media. While the CEC response did not come immediately after the question was raised, the viral posts make it seem that Kumar ignored the journalist's query altogether. 

The verdict

An edited video segment from the Election Commission of India's press conference has been shared to claim that a journalist's question to the poll body officials on MCC violations was ignored. However, the complete video shows CEC Rajiv Kumar addressing the journalist's questions and responding to various other queries at the conference.

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