The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed authorities to make the public aware of the existence of Rule 49-O of the Conduct of Election Rules by publishing it in two leading newspapers.

The First Bench comprising the Chief Justice M.Y.Eqbal and Justice T.S.Sivagnanam passed the order while disposing of a public interest litigation petition filed by an advocate who sought a direction to the authorities to give effect to the provision by giving wide publicity to it in both the electronic and print media for the Assembly elections, scheduled for April 13.

In his petition, S.Sathia Chandran said there were a considerable number of candidates in the fray for the elections who had criminal cases pending against them. This caused serious concern among the electorate. Despite ban, political parties cashed in on communal, religious and other feelings of the people. The electorate did not like most of the candidates. The nominees had been thrust upon the electors by political parties. The independents were in the fray to serve their own interests.

The provision enabling voters to register that none of the candidates listed was found suitable to be elected in his/her opinion was contained in Rule 49-O. However, this provision was not popular.

When the matter came up, senior counsel representing the Election Commission, G.Rajagopalan, said Form 17-A (to exercise the option) would be made available in all the polling booths and wide publicity would also be given.

The Bench said in addition to this arrangement, the authorities should also make the public aware of Rule 49-O by publishing it in two English newspapers and two Tamil newspapers having wide circulation throughout the State.

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