M A I N   N E W S

I&B Ministry throws ball in EC’s court
Surrogate advertisements
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 29
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry today virtually threw the politically contentious issue of ‘surrogate’ advertisements on television channels in Election Commission’s court, stating that the poll panel should consider regulating these under the Model Code of Conduct.

Replying to the commission’s notice on the Congress complaint, the ministry said the ‘surrogate’ advertisements on TV channels could not be controlled under the Cable Television Networks (Regulations) Rules.

“The commission is requested to consider regulating these advertisements under the Model Code of Conduct as these advertisements are clearly being aired in the context of the ensuing elections”, the ministry said.

The controversy over the surrogate advertising arose following complaints over two advertisements — one issued by Kamakshi Education Society allegedly targeting the foreign origin of Sonia Gandhi and another issued by Saajhi Viraasat Trust casting aspersions on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Advertising Committee, which considered the two advertisements, came to the unanimous conclusion that the “present provisions of Rule 7 are not attracted by the two advertisements”.

“As the content of the advertisements is of a political nature and has relevance to the ongoing electoral process, it was felt that the matter could be referred to the Election Commission for appropriate consideration and possible regulation under the Model Code of Conduct for elections”, the ministry said.

The Advertising Committee headed by Additional Secretary Vijay Singh met today to consider the issue in the light of EC’s letter of March 27, seeking the government’s opinion in the matter after the AP High Court ruling.

The court had stayed operation of Rule 7(3) of the Cable TV Network rules, thereby allowing political advertisements being telecast by TV channels.

Acting on complaints about unfair TV ads by political parties, the commission on Saturday had asked the I&B Ministry to take “appropriate action” against ads that were “slanderous in nature” in violative of the advertisement code.


SC seeks records of parties with ‘religious affiliations’
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 29
The Supreme Court today sought to place before it the
memorandum of association (MoA) of 22 political parties allegedly pursuing religious agenda, including various factions of the Akali Dal, Hindu, Muslim and Christian organisations to determine whether cognizance could be taken of a PIL seeking their derecognition.

A Bench of the Chief Justice Mr V.N. Khare, Mr Justice G.P. Mathur and Mr Justice S.H. Kapadia directed retired Army Officer, N. Kunju, who filed the public interest litigation (PIL), to place on record the MoA of these parties within two weeks.

Kunju in his litigation sought a direction to the Centre and the Election Commission (EC) for the derecognition of these parties on the grounds that they were pursuing policies based on religion, which was contrary to the spirit of secularism as enshrined in the Constitution.

The court, however, exempted major national parties — the BJP, Congress, CPM, Janata Dal and the BSP — from inclusion in the list of the parties whose MoA was sought.

Prominent among the 22 parties whose names figured in the list of respondents in the PIL included Shiromani Akali Dal, Akali Dal (Mann), Akali Dal (Master Tara Singh), three other Akali factions, Indian Union Muslim League, Indian Muslim Congress, Islamic Party of India, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, Bharat Hindu Samaj, Hindu Praja Party, Rashtriya Hindu Morcha and All India Christian Democratic Party.

“The EC has registered these parties, of which the name itself is anti-secular, and further, it continues the registration of many other such parties at the national and state level in violation of the principle of secularism,” Kunju’s counsel P.V. Dinesh said in the PIL.

The court told petitioner’s counsel that before seeking notices to these parties, he had to establish whether they were actually not abiding by the constitutional provisions.

Dinesh said leaders and members of these parties were “involved in anti-secular activities and their speeches are communal in nature.”

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