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Election Commission assures Bombay High Court of restriction in political ads during polls

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday informed the high court that it would introduce new rules for political advertisements in electronic media and social media and ensure that no such advertisements are displayed 48 hours before voting.

The EC also told a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N.M. Jamdar that it will ensure implementation of all its previous notifications regulating political advertisements on social media, particularly during elections. The EC’s counsel Pradeep Rajagopal made the statement.

Advocate Rajagopal was responding to a query po-sed by the court on a previous hearing, asking why the EC was hesitant to issue specific directions prohibiting political ads on social media 48 hours before election day.

“The EC will implement directions passed by court from time to time with respect to social media intermediaries,” advocate Rajagopal said. “It will also issue directions keeping in view the submissions made before the court by other respondent parties like Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube on the 48-hour period. If this court passes orders on prohibitory regulations for social media during this 48 hour period, it will implement them,” he said.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Sagar Suryavanshi seeking directions to the EC to regulate fake news in the form of paid political ads on social media. The PIL had also urged the court to direct the EC to prohibit all persons from posting advertisements related to politics or elections, or paid political content on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter 48 hours before election day.

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