Election Commission drops show-cause notice on Rahul Gandhi

The Hindu

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 EC proposes committee to examine Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, under which the Congress leader had earlier been issued the notice

The Election Commission (EC) on Sunday withdrew the show-cause notice to newly elected Congress president Rahul Gandhi in connection with his interviews to TV channels ahead of the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections on December 14.

In another order, the EC directed the setting up of a committee to examine the provisions of Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, under which the Congress leader had earlier been issued the notice.

The proposed committee will comprise representatives of the Election Commission, the Ministries of Information & Broadcasting, Law & Justice and Electronics and Information Technology, the National Broadcasters’ Associations and the Press Council of India. The committee will examine the relevant provisions in the prevailing context of communication technologies and suggest the required changes.

In the meantime, the Commission has requested the Congress and the BJP to not violate the existing provision, which prohibits mentioning of any “election matter” within 48 hours of the closing of an election.

Section 126 of the Act provides for prohibition of public meetings and mentioning of the relevant “election matter” during the 48 hours ending with the polls.
Legal opinion sought

“The Commission has been regularly receiving complaints regarding violations of the said provision of Section 126,” said an EC order, observing that the electoral body had sought a legal opinion on the issue.

“It was opined that the increasing changes in the technology of communication makes it necessary that the administration, preferably the Law Commission, should have another look at the Section and clarify its limits,” said the Commission.

The Election Commission observed that if the provision was read widely, any person could file a complaint by wide interpretation pertaining to “an election matter”, and the Commission and the courts would be flooded with complaints arising out of “the intensity of an election campaign and the bitterness it may evoke.”

The Commission has, therefore, suggested that the prosecution should be initiated only in the manner adopted in Section 32 of the Representation of the People Act.

“In the recent elections to the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh legislative assemblies, media reports indicate that there may have been a large number of cases of violation of these provisions on the part of the different media houses, political parties, and candidates seeking election,” said the Commission.

It said Section 126 did not take into account a communication revolution.

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