T.N. govt.’s ad campaign not promotion of ruling party, EC tells HC

CHENNAI, 11/04/2008: Madras High Court buildings in Chennai on April 11, 2008. Photo: V. Ganesan  

The Election Commission of India (EC) on Tuesday told the Madras High Court that a recent advertisement campaign carried out by the Tamil Nadu government to showcase its achievements in the last four years did not contain either the election symbol of the AIADMK or the name of the ruling party. Hence, it could not be construed as use of public funds to publicise the party, it said.

Filing a counter-affidavit before Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy in reply to a case filed by the DMK, the EC said: “The occurrence of photographs of former Chief Ministers along with the present Chief Minister also cannot be taken as promotion of the political party so as to invoke paragraph 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.”

Withdraw recognition

Paragraph 16A of the 1968 Order empowers the Commission to suspend or withdraw recognition of a political party for its failure to observe the ‘Model Code of Conduct for Guidance of Political Parties and Candidates’ or to follow the lawful directions and instructions issued by the Commission from time to time in order to ensure conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections and to safeguard the interests of the electorate.

After submitting the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the EC as well as Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Satyabrata Sahoo, advocate Niranjan Rajagopalan told the court that the advertisement campaign, about which the DMK had complained to the EC, was carried out before the Assembly election date was announced. However, after the announcement on February 26, a ban had been imposed on government advertisements too.

Govt. functions

The Commission had written to the State government on February 26 itself asking it to stop issuing such advertisements, he said. Advocate-General Vijay Narayan, assisted by Special Government Pleader E. Manohar, said not just government advertisements but government functions, too, could not be conducted as long as the model of code of conduct was in force in the State in view of the elections scheduled on April 6.

However, senior counsel P. Wilson, representing the DMK, said the EC should be directed to pass written orders on representations made by the DMK complaining about the advertisement campaign so that the party could have an opportunity to challenge the Commission’s decision. Accepting his submissions, the Bench directed the EC to dispose of those representations within a week.

Authoring the order, the Chief Justice said the case appeared to be the first pre-election sparring between two principal political parties in the State before the actual competition on the ground began. Impressing upon the need to ensure fair play and a sportive spirit during election time, he appealed to all political parties to eschew any form of violence or incitement of violence on the streets.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 9:33:12 AM |

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