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Advertisements on state-owned buses banned during Elections

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NEW DELHI: The Election Commission (EC) has banned the display of political advertisements on State Road Transport Corporation buses and vehicles owned by Municipal Corporations etc, and other government owned vehicles when the Model Code of Conduct is in force for State Assembly or Legislative Council elections.

The Commission, which has already banned such advertisements through hoardings and posters, said ?it wanted a level-playing field for all parties since state-owned buses or the corporations were necessarily run by the ruling parties.?

It also added that the action was taken after having duly considered all aspects of the matter in exercise of its powers under Article 324 (1) of the Constitution, and in the interest of conduct of free and fair elections.

The Commission's circular letter of 7 October 2008 contains the instructions and guidelines to be followed in the matter of display of election related advertisements through hoardings, banners, posters etc. It mainly deala with advertisements on static property and regarding display of flags and stickers on private vehicles.

It can also be noted that there may be cases where advertisement-panels on buses are let out to advertising agencies for allocation to various clients during certain periods as per the contract entered into by them.

EC also stressed that a level playing field envisaged under the Model Code of Conduct is a very vital aspect for ensuring free and fair elections. ?A party should not be in a position to take undue advantage on account of it being in power in the government. This will put the other parties and contestants at a disadvantageous position and will disturb the level playing field, adversely affecting the fairness of election.?

?There is reasonable likelihood that the allotment of advertisement spaces on such vehicles is likely to be manipulated more so in politically important constituencies and as such it will not be easy to ensure equitable distribution of advertisement space on the buses,? the Commission concluded.

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