RESTRICTION ON ADVERTISING BEFORE 48 HOURS OF TIME FIXED FOR CONCLUSION OF POLL
Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 deals with ‘Prohibition of public meetings during period of forty—eight hours ending with hour fixed for conclusion of poll’. The key provisions of the section provides as below:-
(1) No person shall—
(a) convene, hold or attend, join or address any public meeting or procession in connection with an election; or
(b) display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus; or
(c) propagate any election matter to the public by holding, or by arranging the holding of, any musical concert or any theatrical performance or any other entertainment or amusement with a view to attracting the members of the public thereto,
in any polling area during the period of forty-eight hours ending with the fixed for the conclusion of the poll for any election in the polling area.
(2) Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
(3) In this section, the expression “election matter” means any matter intended or calculated to influence or affect the result of an election.].
Query 1 – The heading of the section deals with only holding of public meeting – does this section apply on other forms of advertising also?
My View –
Yes, as per the Laws of Interpretation, a heading is only illustrative in nature and it is the body of the section which must be referred for understanding the meaning of the law. In the current case the body of the section deals with several other forms of advertising including Cinematograph, Television etc.
Query 2 – There is no reference of the News Paper (Print Media) advertising in this section, whether the 48 hour timeline is also applicable on print media?
My View –
In clause (b) of sub-section 1 of Section 126, the sentence is ending with the word “.. or other similar apparatus” – thus #ejusdem generis shall hold good in this case. (#Latin word which means “of the same kind,” used to interpret loosely written statutes.)
While extending the meaning of ‘other similar apparatus’, we have to identify whether it is restricted to only Electronic Media or it extends to any form of advertising including Print Media and news paper advertising.
Here we need to understand the Intention of the Law. I will draw attention on sub-section 3 of section 126 which defines ‘election matter’ as any matter intended or calculated to influence or effect the result of an election.
In my view, a print media advertisement clearly intends to influence the result of an election and hence the same is covered under clause (b) of sub-section 1 of Section 126. There may be difference of opinion and a clarification can be obtained from the EC on the same.