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SC bans political ads on TV
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 2
Taking exception to the “mud-slinging” match between political parties through surrogate advertisements on TV amid the poll campaign, the Supreme Court today banned all political ads by TV channels and cable operators which offended public morality, decency and religious susceptibility.

Directing the Election Commission to monitor the telecast of such ads by TV and cable networks, a Bench of Chief Justice V.N. Khare, Mr Justice S.B. Sinha and Mr Justice S.H. Kapadia warned the networks of telecasting any such ad.

The EC was also directed to place by Monday its response whether expenses on any ad in favour of a particular candidate should be included in his poll expenses and why should not he be making payment for it to the ad agency by cheque. The limit for poll expenses by a candidate for the Lok Sabha and the state Assembly is fixed by the EC at Rs 25 lakh and Rs 10 lakh, respectively.

The apex court also issued notices to Gemini TV and a cable network run by P. Kiron in South India, on whose petition the high court had passed the order.

The direction came during the hearing of the Centre’s appeal against the Andhra Pradesh High Court order allowing the telecast of political ads on TV.

The Chief Justice observed “it is a mud-slinging match going on... till now we were watching a very good match”. It was an obvious reference to the Indian cricket team’s great show in Pakistan. “We do not want it to be substituted by the political mug slinging,” the Chief Justice said.

Attorney-General Soli J. Sorabjee making a strong plea for staying of the high court order, said under Rule 7(1) of the Cable and TV Network Rules any ad offensive to public morality, decency and religious feeling of a person, was prohibited. Indecency would include painting a person in bad light, he said.

The BJP had taken exception to the telecast of surrogate ads in which Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was being painted as “British Mukhbir (informer)” and Congress had objected to a similar ad questioning Ms Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin.

Since the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the EC had not taken any action on the telecast of such ads by TV channels, the Prime Minister had to intervene.

He had directed the Attorney-General and the I and B Minister to take recourse to legal remedy on the issue, following which the Ministry filed an appeal in the apex court against the high court order, quashing Rule 7 (3) of the Cable and TV Network Rules, 1994, prohibiting such ads.

Alleging that the high court had passed the order in haste, Mr Sorabjee said the objection was to such ads which were projecting Leader of the Opposition (Sonia Gandhi) in a bad light linking her father to World War II, projecting the Prime Minister in a shocking manner and Deputy Prime Minister in a situation totally out of context.”



SC rejects plea against yatra
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 2
The Supreme Court today dismissed a petition challenging the ongoing “Bharat Uday Yatra” of Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani, saying there was no report about any debate on religious or caste issue during the journey.

“I have not read in any newspaper that anything is said on religion or caste or any disturbance is caused,” said Chief Justice V. N. Khare, heading a three-Judge Bench that rejected the petition, filed by a Chennai-based lawyer, seeking ban on the yatra.

Advocate S. Veeraraghawan had moved an appeal in the apex court after his petition for banning the yatra was rejected by the Madras High Court.

The apex court said even the Tamil Nadu Government had given an undertaking through its Advocate-General to the court that the rule relating to maintenance of law and order would be followed.

“Similarly all states are capable of taking steps to maintain the law and order,” the court observed. The first phase of Mr Advani’s yatra from Kanyakumari to Amritsar has already concluded peacefully and he is currently on the second leg of his journey, which started three days ago from Porbandar and will culminate at Puri on April 14.

Mr Advani in the process will cover 121 Lok Sabha constituencies across the country.

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