Lok Sabha polls: Calcutta High Court pulls up Election Commission over BJP ads against TMC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Lok Sabha polls: Calcutta High Court pulls up Election Commission over BJP ads against TMC

By, Kolkata
May 21, 2024 08:33 AM IST

Lok Sabha polls: Earlier this month, BJP published ads in vernacular dailies, accusing TMC of corruption, anti-Hindu stance, and unsafe environment for women.

The Calcutta high court on Monday pulled up the Election Commission (EC) for its “gross failure” to address complaints pertaining to “derogatory” advertisements published by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, and restrained the opposition party from carrying out materials that are in violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

The high court was also informed that the EC had issued a show cause notice to state BJP president Sukanta Majumdar after the TMC filed the writ petition. (Calcutta High Court)
The high court was also informed that the EC had issued a show cause notice to state BJP president Sukanta Majumdar after the TMC filed the writ petition. (Calcutta High Court)

A single bench of justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya passed the order while hearing a petition by the TMC, seeking to restrain the BJP from publishing advertisements that are in violation of the poll code.

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“In the present case, the EC has grossly failed to address the complaints raised by the petitioner in due time. This court is surprised that no resolution worth the name has been arrived at regarding the complaints till date, more so because most of the phases of the elections are over,” the judge said.

Earlier this month, the BJP had published at least four advertisements in vernacular dailies, portraying the ruling party as corrupt and one that is against the Hindus, and claiming that women are not safe under the present regime. The TMC filed multiple complaints with the EC and later moved the high court after alleged inaction by the poll body.

“Perusal of the impugned advertisements clearly evince that those were in violation of the letter and spirit of the MCC. It is also clear that the allegations in the form of advertisements made against the petitioner are outright derogatory and definitely intended at insulting the rivals and levelling personal attacks,” the bench said.

The MCC prohibits political parties, leaders and candidates from criticising their opponents on the basis of unverified allegations.

In the court, the EC’s counsel said the poll body had taken note of the complaints against the advertisements. He said in one of the cases, the matter was taken up with the state’s chief electoral officer and in another, it was sent to the media certification and monitoring committee for necessary action. In another complaint, the matter was sent to the EC in Delhi through its secretary, the poll body’s counsel said.

The high court was also informed that the EC had issued a show cause notice to state BJP president Sukanta Majumdar after the TMC filed the writ petition.

The bench, however, said: “This court is not satisfied that any of the so-called resolutions are resolutions in the real sense of the term. It is merely an exercise by the EC of passing the buck regarding the complaints made by the petition.”

HT reached out to an EC official for a comment but did not get one immediately.

The TMC, which has in the past accused the EC of bias, said the court had passed an “important order”.

“The Calcutta high court has passed an important order. It said that such advertisements shouldn’t have been published. They are derogatory and have violated the MCC. It also said that the EC should have taken a significant step,” state minister Chandrima Bhattacharya said.

In a post on X, Rajya Sabha MP Saket Gokhale said: “ECI’s conduct throughout this election has been shameful. At every given opportunity, rules have been bent to favor Modi & BJP. Now, even Calcutta HC has strongly rebuked the ECI for failing to take action on BJP’s fake & disparaging ads about @AITCofficial. The Hon’ble court has also restrained BJP & banned the ads. This is an election where the ECI openly bats for the ruling party.”

BJP leader Shishir Bajoria said the party is going to challenge the order. “We have not seen the order yet. We would go for an appeal once we go through the court’s order,” he said.

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