Section 126 of the RP Act,1951
Context: The Schedule for holding General Election to the Legislative Assembly of NCT of Delhi, 2020 has been announced on 6th January, 2020. In respect to this, the relevant portions of the Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951 are re-produced.
Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 prohibits displaying any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency. Any person who contravenes the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both. What points has been reproduced by the Commission? The Commission once again reiterates that the TV/Radio channels and cable networks/internet website/social media platforms should ensure that the contents of the programmes telecast/broadcast/ displayed by them during the period of 48 hours referred to in Section 126 do not contain any material, including views/appeals by panelists/participants that may be construed as promoting/ prejudicing the prospect of any particular party or candidate(s) or influencing/ affecting the result of the election. This shall, among other things include display of any opinion poll and of standard debates, analysis, visuals and sound-bytes. Attention is also invited to Section 126A of the R.P. Act 1951, which prohibits conduct of Exit poll and dissemination of its results during the period mentioned therein, i.e. the hour fixed for commencement of poll and half an hour after the time fixed for close of poll. During the period which is not covered by Section 126, concerned TV/Radio/Cable/FM channels/internet websites/Social Media platforms are free to approach the state/ district/ local authorities for necessary permission for conducting any broadcast/Telecast related events (other than exit polls) which must also conform to the provisions of the model code of conduct, the programme code laid down by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under the Cable Network (Regulation) Act with regard to decency, maintenance of communal harmony, etc. All Internet websites and Social Media platforms must also comply with the provisions of The Information Technology Act, 2000 and ECI guidelines No-491/SM/2013/Communication, dt 25th October, 2013, for all political content on their platform. Guidelines with respect to the Press It will be the duty of the Press to give objective reports about elections and the candidates. The newspapers are not expected to indulge in unhealthy election campaigns, exaggerated reports about any candidate/party or incident during the elections. Election campaign along communal or caste lines is banned under the election rules. Hence, the Press should eschew reports, which tend to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between people on the ground of religion, race, caste, community or language. The Press should refrain from publishing false or critical statements in regard to the personal character and conduct of any candidate or in relation to the candidature or withdrawal of any candidate or his candidature, to prejudice the prospects of that candidate in the elections. The Press shall not accept any kind of inducement, financial or otherwise, to project a candidate/party. It shall not accept hospitality or other facilities offered to them by or on behalf of any candidate/party. The Press is not expected to indulge in canvassing of a particular candidate/party. If it does, it shall allow the right of reply to the other candidate/party. The Press shall not accept/publish any advertisement at the cost of public exchequer regarding achievements of a party/ government in power. The Press shall observe all the directions/ orders/instructions of the Election Commission/Returning Officers or Chief Electoral Officer issued from time to time.