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Calcutta High Court criticises Election Commission for inaction on TMC complaints

TMC had accused the BJP of circulating offensive advertisements that violated electoral guidelines. Despite multiple complaints, the Election Commission did not take timely or appropriate action, according to the court.

Edited By: Nitin Kumar @Niitz1 Kolkata Published on: May 20, 2024 23:30 IST
Calcutta High Court
Image Source : PTI/FILE PHOTO Kolkata: Calcutta High Court wears a deserted look.

The Calcutta High Court on Monday criticised the Election Commission of India (ECI) for failing to act on the Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) complaints against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) allegedly slanderous advertisements. The court found that these ads violated the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and ordered the BJP to halt any derogatory advertisements against the TMC until further notice.

Judge's remarks

Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya, who presided over the case, noted that the BJP’s advertisements breached both the MCC and the Press Council of India guidelines. He emphasised the ECI's delay in addressing TMC's complaints, stating, "The ECI has grossly failed to address the complaints of the TMC in due time. This Court is surprised that resolution of the complaints after the conclusion of elections is nothing to the court and as such in due failure on part of the ECI in due time this court is constrained to pass an injunction order."

Legal blow to BJP's campaign

The court found that the BJP's advertisements, particularly during the 'silence period' before elections, violated the MCC, infringing on the rights of the TMC and citizens to fair elections. The ads were deemed derogatory and intended to insult rivals, directly contradicting the MCC and infringing upon the petitioners' rights to a free and fair election process.

Petitioners' arguments

The petitioners’ counsel argued that the advertisements were slanderous and violated the MCC, which prohibited campaigns based on caste, creed, or religion. Despite filing a complaint with the ECI, no action was taken until the writ petition was submitted.

ECI and newspaper responses

The ECI’s counsel argued that the matter was under judicial consideration and suggested that an election petition would be a more appropriate remedy than an injunction. Meanwhile, the counsel for the newspaper that published the ads contended that similar advertisements appeared in other newspapers not named in the petition, questioning the petition's validity. They maintained that the newspaper was merely sustaining its revenue through these advertisements and had not violated any laws.

Implications

This ruling underscored the judiciary's role in upholding electoral integrity and the importance of timely action by the Election Commission to address complaints of misconduct. The injunction against the BJP ads aims to ensure a fair and untainted election process, reflecting the court's commitment to protecting democratic principles.

Also read | Congress will snatch properties and hand it over to those involved in 'Vote Jihad': PM Modi at Jhargram rally

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