Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora during a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo/ANI
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora during a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo/ANI

EC tells parties to observe 'silence period' on all media, not to cross `Lakshman Rekha'

ANI | Updated: Sep 21, 2019 22:07 IST

New Delhi [India], Sept 21 (ANI): The Election Commission of India (ECI) has called upon political parties to ensure that their leaders and campaigners observe the 'silence period' on all forms of media during assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra and refrain from holding press conferences and giving interviews on election matters.
Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that social media entities have given a voluntary code of ethics and they have assured that they will stick to it.
"We have a special social media monitoring unit within the Election Commission also. That takes stock of that," he said.
He was responding to queries about the use of social media during the silence period.
Arora said that countries have different legislative framework towards social media and India does not have it yet.
"In India, we do not have a legislative framework at least not yet. In the UK, they have made some legislative framework. In Germany, they have made far stringent legislative framework. Our view towards media is that legislative framework does not help too much," he said.
Arora said there were substantive laws like IPC and there is the Press Council of India for the print media and the National Broadcasting Association for the electronic media.
"In social media, we are engaging them. If we find that any media is crossing the 'Lakshman Rekha' we will do what we are mandated to do," he said
An ECI press release said on Saturday that a committee was constituted by the commission to study provisions of Section 126 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951 in the context of advancements in communication technology and expansion of social media.
Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951 prohibits election campaign activities such as public meetings, processions and displaying of election matter by means of television and similar apparatus. The purpose is to provide a period of tranquillity (silence period) to the electors before the voting day. The committee submitted its report to the Commission in January this year.
Among other proposals, the committee proposed an advisory to political parties for compliance with the letter and spirit of provisions of Section 126.
"The Commission (has) called upon all political parties to instruct and brief their leaders and campaigners to ensure that they observe the silence period on all forms of media as envisaged under Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951, and their leaders and cadres do not commit any act that may violate the spirit of Section 126," the official release said.
The poll panel said that during the silence period "star campaigners and other political leaders should refrain from addressing the media by way of press conferences and giving interviews on election matters."
It said that in a multi-phased election, silence period of the last 48 hours may be on in certain constituencies while the campaign is on in other constituencies.
"In such event, there should not be any direct or indirect reference amounting to soliciting support for parties or candidates in the constituencies observing the silence period," the press release said.
Elections will be held in Haryana and Maharashtra on October 21 and counting of votes will take place on October 24.
Arora also announced that by-elections to one Lok Sabha seat and 64 assembly seats across various states will also be held on October 21.