28th April, 2021
Calcutta High Court on Tuesday (April 27, 2021) was dealing with a plea seeking the strict enforcement of Section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 amid the West Bengal Assembly elections.
The High Court remarked,
“Sensationalism is anathema to responsible and responsive journalism.”
The observation was made by a Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee while dealing with a plea seeking the strict enforcement of Section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
In addition, the Court said,
Print and audio-visual media could be proactive but has to be sensitive. This is what is meant in the truest sense by the oft mentioned term ‘fourth estate’.”
Intrestingly, Section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 reads thus:
“126(1)(b). No person shall display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph television or other similar apparatus in any polling area during the period of forty-eight hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of the poll for any election in that polling area.”
Notably, the petitioner had raised apprehension that the said provision may be violated by media and publishing houses. The Court, in turn, expressed faith that the concerned authorities would ensure the strict obedience of the law.
In response to this, Senior Counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, representing the Election Commission of India submitted that election rallies have been stopped by the Commission since the last phase of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly election is slated to be held on April 29 (Thursday). As such, the Commission submitted that there is no reason to apprehend any breach of Section 126 of the Representation of People Act.
Consequently, the Court directed that the authorities to strictly enforce the aforesaid provision of law.
“We record this submission and direct that the authorities concerned shall strictly enforce the aforesaid provision of law”, the Court added. The matter has been listed next on May 3, when other matters concerning the conduct of elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic will also be taken up.
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