Television

Election broadcast must be seen in context of electoral constituencies: NBSA

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MUMBAI: A case had been filed against English news channels CNN-IBN, NDTV, Times Now and Headlines Today regarding a piece of news that was broadcast on 7 April 2014.



The complaint filed by Vishal  Kudchadkar and  Syed Ali Hussaini claimed that on the particular day, some constituencies in Assam and Tripura went to polls but the above mentioned channels chose to broadcast the BJP manifesto release on the same day. According to the complainants, they have violated the Section 126 (1) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, which prohibits any public display of  election  matter  by means  of cinematography,  television and other  similar apparatus  during  the  period  of 48 hours  prior  to  the end  of  polling.  



This apart they allege that it also violates the direction of the Election Commission of India and Guideline 12 of the NBA guidelines for election broadcasts.



The NBSA sought a reply from the ECI in this regard to which it said, “The legal opinion (obtained by EC) on the issue relating to Section 126 of  RP Act was that the said section,  being a penal provision,   had  to be strictly construed; and that the telecasting of an election related event such as release of election manifesto or an election address or a press conference outside the limits of a constituency  going  to   the  poll  would  not  attract  the  penal  provisions  of Section 126; and that the prohibition  regarding the release of  a manifesto or election address or press conference will have to be restricted  to any election matters relating to that constituency and the candidates in that constituency.”



Guideline 12 of the NBA says, ‘The  broadcasters shall not broadcast any 'election matter' that is, any matter intended  or calculated to influence or affect  the result of  an election during the 48 hours ending with the hours fixed for the conclusion of  poll, in violation of  Section 126 (1) (b) of  the Representation of People Act. 1951.’ The EC was proposing to consider the broadcast of the BJP manifesto as a violation of section 126 of RP Act.

Therefore, the NBSA feels that this falls in the jurisdiction of the criminal courts. It says that it could have considered that the broadcasters had violated the provision of section 126 (1)(b) of the RP Act, had the words ‘in violation of section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of People Act, 1951’.

The election matter also involves the fact that whether anything was done to disturb or tilt the voting scenario in the area where it is being held rather than throughout the country. Therefore, the NBSA says that the complaints have no merit and can be closed.

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