In order to conduct free and fair elections this year, Election Commission on Tuesday has asked the Law Ministry of India to ban all political advertisements on sorts of media before 48-hours of the polling.
For this, a change needs to done in Section 126 of the Representation of People Act which currently prevents electronic media from airing political advertisements in the silent period (48-hours before the day of polling).
In the letter to the Law Ministry, the EC suggested to extend the provisions under Section 126 of the Representation of People Act to print and digital media looking at the growing impact of social media on elections.
“Inclusion of print media within the ambit of section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of the People Act 1951 and issue of online canvassing to promote or prejudice the electoral prospects of a party/candidate on social media during the last 48 hours before conclusion of polling will…be discussed,” an EC statement on the agendas to be discussed, said last week.
However, even the EC wrote to the government two weeks ago to amend the Actat the earliest, there has no action been taken by the government yet.
The last Parliament Session before the Lok Sabha elections is to end on February 13.
In 2015, the EC had made pre-certification compulsory for campaign material or political ads to be published in newspapers during the 48 hours.
In the last three-four years, the social networking sites, as well as many similar platforms, have emerged as a medium for political parties to run their views and propaganda to manipulate voter base.
In order to bring more transparency in political ads, Facebook and Google have both now come up with a searchable Political Ads Library in India.
Last year, the ECI had roped in Google to track online advertising done by political parties.
The search engine will develop a mechanism that will enable it to share with the authority, details about the expenditure incurred on its platforms. Besides, it will only allow the advertisements that are pre-certified by the EC’s Media Certification and Monitoring Committees.
The EC also asked Facebook to consider blocking of political advertisement during the last 48 hours before elections in the country.