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Lok Sabha elections 2019: HC bans display of political content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 48 hours prior to polls

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Published: January 25, 2019 2:06:02 PM

The Bombay High Court on Friday ordered that social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram should not carry political advertisements within 48 hours prior to the polls during the upcoming general elections.

Election CommissionLok Sabha elections 2019: HC bans display of political content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 48 hours prior to polls

The Bombay High Court on Friday ordered that social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram should not carry political advertisements within 48 hours prior to the polls during the upcoming general elections. The order was passed by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice NM Jamdar.

The court also asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the central government to inform it about its plan to prevent display of political content on social media just ahead of the elections.

The court’s order came while hearing a petition seeking specific directions be issued with regard to display of political ads in social media sites. The petition was filed by Pune-based lawyer Sagar Suryawanshi. He had filed the petition under Section 126 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951. The Section prohibits any public meetings or gatherings during the 48 hours just before the start of elections.

The model code of conduct imposed by the Election Commission of India prohibits political parties from campaigning within last 48 hours before the voting. The public meetings, roadshows, rallies, bike rallies and all other forms of campaign are banned in the last 48 hours to enable the voters make up their mind just before exercising their franchise. However, the political parties use social media sites to get in touch with the voters and influence them.

Sagar said that banning political ads on social media platforms during the last 48 hours will prevent influencing the voters and would be instrumental in organsing elections in a free and fair manner.

Sagar also demanded regulation of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube during the no-campaign (silent) period before the polling, a report in The Indian Express said. Besides, he also stated that the court should make it mandatory for the political parties to obtain consent from the Election Commission before publishing or sponsoring any political advertisement on social media sites.

The Election Commission submitted to the court that it will include the word ‘electronic media’ by way of amendment in Section 126 (b) of RPA 1951. The act prohibits displaying of any election related mater on television or similar apparatus during the last 48 hours before the start of polling.

The court then said that such an amendment will take a lot of time and asked the poll body to apprise it about the measures it was planning to stop political ads on social media as elections approach.

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