SC fixes time frames for vetting pol ads

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today decreed that no political advertisement would go on air on TV channels before being cleared by the Election Commission and finalized a set of guidelines for such media blitz saying that the Commission would be sole monitor for ensuring 'cleanliness' in political advertising.



The apex court-cleared guidelines entail that a recognized party at the national or state level, or their candidates proposing to issue advertisements on electronic media will have to apply to the EC or its designated official three days before the proposed date of telecast. In case of unrecognized parties and candidates, who may also include independents, a seven-day clearance period has been designated.

The court also has directed the Election Commission to order chief electoral officers in each state to form committees in each district to approve such advertisements. The guidelines come into effect from 16 April and remain in force till 10 May.

According to news agency reports, a three-judge bench has also said that private parties issuing political advertisements would have to make payments by cheque to the television channels concerned and also disclose their sources of funding.The order, by and large, resolves the confusion regarding political advertisements in the electronic media in the last few weeks. The case had reached the Supreme Court in the form of a Special Leave Petition filed by the information and broadcasting ministry, challenging an Andhra Pradesh high court order, which had lifted the ban on political advertisements in the electronic media.

The bench, comprising Chief Justice V N Khare and Justices S B Sinha and S H Kapadia, heard senior counsel K K Venugopal, appearing for the Election Commission, Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee for the Centre and K Ramakant Reddy for the Gemini TV before delivering an order, which is binding on all political parties, candidates and any other persons desirous of issuing ads on TV channels, agencies reported.

The court had on 2 April banned telecasting of ''mudslinging'' and surrogate advertisements on the electronic media. It also directed that no TV channel or cable network would telecast any advertisement that did not conform to the law of the land and offended morality, decency and the religious susceptibility of the viewers or was ''shocking, disgusting and revolting in nature.''

The SC, while staying an Andhra Pradesh high court's interim order dated 23 March removing a ban on political advertising on TV channels, also ordered that the provision banning canvassing 48 hours before the polling would be applicable to political advertisements in electronic media, agencies report.

Meanwhile, political parties welcomed SC's decision saying the guidelines would bring some decorum.

According to a senior BJP leader, opposition parties, especially the Congress, would not be able to take potshots at senior BJP leaders. A Congress leader, while pointing out that it was a BJP front organisation that had started it all, admitted the country could do without such mud-slinging.

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