EC relaxes curbs on hoardings, banners

NEW DELHI, APRIL 24. Relaxing its restrictions on display of hoardings and banners, the Election Commission has permitted the contestants for the Lok Sabha elections to display political advertisements not only at paid sites but also at private places with the consent of their owners on condition that the expenditure incurred would be included in their election expenditure.

The EC's previous order had imposed a "blanket ban" on display of poll-related banners, posters and hoardings. With the relaxation, such hoardings can now be officially displayed on streetlights, at bus stands, city buses and garbage bins where the civic bodies had recently begun giving out sites for commercial ads.

However, there has been no relaxation regarding posters and graffiti. The police and civic agencies would continue to remove posters and graffiti and initiate action against those committing these violations.

Following a large number of representations from political parties and candidates to relax the orders and permit them to erect and display hoardings in private places with the consent of the owners, the Election Commission has permitted the same on the strict condition that "no individual shall be coerced or intimidated for obtaining such consent".

As for public places, the Commission ruled that erecting hoardings and banners would be subject to local laws and court orders, if any, in force in the area concerned. "If there are places already earmarked by local authorities for advertisements and display of banners or hoardings, the space provided shall not be expanded or reduced after the announcements of elections. It should be ensured that the places mentioned above are not dominated or monopolised by any political party or candidate and all the parties and candidates in the area are given equal opportunity to avail [themselves] of this facility," the order said.

However, the Commission clarified that the expenses in connection with display of hoardings and banners, whether in public places or private premises, should be included in the account of election expenditure of candidates. "If such hoardings and banners are for election purposes for a group of candidates, the expenses will be equally apportioned among the concerned candidates," the Commission said.

It is believed that the demand for relaxation in the existing rules was first made by the Union Labour Minister, Sahib Singh Verma, who is contesting as Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Outer Delhi, and by his party colleague and Union Minister of State, Vijay Goel, who is contesting for the Lok Sabha from Delhi Sadar.

Quite a number of advertisements of Mr. Verma had appeared on bus stands in Outer Delhi, which was objected to by the civic agencies. Mr. Verma, however, argued that he was making payments for these sites and this was duly accounted for in his election expenditure. More or less similar was the case with Mr. Goel, whose advertisements at paid sites were reportedly removed by the local police. At both these places, the local Congress leaders had lodged a complaint against them for violating the rule of the land.

``With this new order, now you can see colourful advertisements of political parties in the next two weeks across the Capital," observed a senior Election Commission official.

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