Representation of People Act 1951 Current Affairs - 2019

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Election Commission advisory to Media

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued guidelines to media on various issue related to elections like exit polls, publication of results etc.

Guidelines of Election Commission

  • Section 126A of the Representation of People Act 1951 prohibits the conduct of exit poll and dissemination of its results the hour fixed for the commencement of poll in the first phase and half an hour after the time fixed for the close of poll for the last phase in all the states. The advisory by the election commission states that exit polls can only be telecast after the final phase of polling for the Lok Sabha elections ends on May 19.
  • The advisory on exit polls is also applicable for Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim.
  • The ECI has asked the TV, radio channels, cable networks, websites and social media platforms to ensure that the contents of programmes telecast during the 48-hour period before the end of polls in each phase do not contain any material, including views or appeals by participants that may be construed as promoting or prejudicing the prospect of any particular party or candidate as per the Section 126 of Representation of People Act 1951.
  • The advisory warns that any violation by broadcasters will be reported to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) by the Election Commission and will be dealt with by the NBSA under its regulations.
  • The news broadcasters are advised not to air any final or definite results until they are formally announced by the Election Commission. Further, such results should be carried with a disclaimer that they are “unofficial or incomplete or partial results or projections which should not be taken as final results.

The Election Commission has asked the political parties to not criticise other countries, or make any verbal attack on any community or religion, use defamatory or obscene remarks or incite violence during the broadcast time allocated in public broadcasting agencies.

Amendments to Representation of People’s Act 1951

The Election Commission of India has sought an amendment to the Representation of People Act 1951 to prevent print media, social media and other digital platforms from carrying political advertisements in the last 48 hours before the polling begins.

Why the amendment is necessary?

Section 126 of the Representation of People Act 1951 prevents electronic media from airing any political advertisements in the silent period (48 hours before polling begins),

The Election Commission has also made it mandatory to seek pre-certification of the campaign material to be published in newspapers during the 48 hours.

But the Social media platforms which are have gained huge prominence for their ability to influence election outcomes, are completely out of the purview of the pre-screening and prohibition rules.

The committee headed Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha had noted that an anomalous situation exists in Section 126 of having differential treatment to print media as compared to other media platforms.

The committee noted that while Section 126 explicitly bans television channels from broadcasting political matter during the silent period, lack of backing by law has led to Print media carrying political advertisements during the silent period despite the curbs imposed by the EC

What are the amendments sought?

The Election Commission of India has written to the Union Ministry of Law suggesting to extend the provisions under Section 126 to digital and print media as well. The Commission has sought inclusion of ‘print media’ and ‘other entities’ within the ambit of Section 126 (1) (b). The other entities would refer to all social media formats.