Election Posters can land you in Jail

Pallavi Sareen

Jammu, April 14: In a gross violation of Model Code of Conduct, posters and pamphlets of BJP, Congress, Panther’s Party and Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan were seen without the name and address of the publisher/printer in Jammu city.

Since the Lok Sabha Elections are going on, the next phase of polling will begin for the Doda-Kathua-Udhampur constituency on April 18th but political parties in Jammu have been blatantly violating the Model Code of Conduct with no regards to the ECI guidelines.

Section 127A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, states that- (1) No person shall print or publish, or cause to be printed or published, any election pamphlet or poster which does not bear on its face the names and addresses of the printer and the publisher thereof.

Now it must be observed that all election pamphlets and posters require both the name and address of the printer and publisher. But throughout Jammu city, it was seen that many posters did not have either the name of the publisher or the address or both.

Since the violation was done by almost all political parties, no complaint has reached the Election Commission of India. But what is even more surprising is that Election commission has not taken suo moto cognizance of it either despite there being strict punishment for this particular violation.

It is mentioned in the Model Code of Conduct, to ensure the above provision that strict action may be taken against the persons who contravene this provision.

As per sub-section (4) of Section 127A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, “Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both.”

Moreover, no public property such as a Government building, or even Telephone/Electric poles can be used by political parties for pasting their posters, pamphlets, stickers or hanging their flags. The model code of conduct strictly prohibits the use of public space.

“While prohibiting use of space in public places/public properties like railway stations, government dispensaries/hospitals, post offices, bus stands, airports, bridges, railways flyovers, roadways, government buses, government/public buildings/premises, civil structures, electric/telephone poles, municipal/local bodies buildings, etc. for political advertisements, the Election Commission has directed that no wall writing, pasting of posters/papers or defacement in any other form, or erecting/displaying of cutouts, hoardings, banners, flags etc. shall be permitted during election period as part of election campaign.”

Yet, the scenario of Hostel for Gujjar Bakkarwal near Hari Singh high School shows differently. While on one hand, despite being a government-owned hostel, its walls and gate had Congress posters on it; on the other hand, the electric poles in the area had BJP flags hanging on them.

People in Jammu city are fuming about their residential walls and doors that have been covered with posters and stickers of various political parties without their will. The citizens say that unknown people paste these posters in the night hours without taking their permission and they have to remove them later on. It is quite troublesome especially for those who have recently gotten their homes whitewashed or painted.

Residential House and Electric Poles

Political Parties in Jammu, be it BJP, Congress, Panther’s Party or Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan have all violated this rule of Model Code of Conduct as well.

Clause (6) of Part I of the Model Code of Conduct for the Guidance of Political Parties and Candidates provides that: No political party or candidate shall permit its or his followers to make use of any individual’s land, building, compound wall, etc., without his permission for erecting flag-staffs, suspending banners, pasting notices, writing slogans etc.

While Model Code of Conduct itself does not mention any penalties for defacement of private property, it does mention that the state laws are strictly applicable in such cases.

As such, The Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Defacement of Property Act 1985 is applicable which clearly mentions that whoever defaces any property shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both.

It also states that if the defacement is done for the benefit of some organisation, then every person in the organisation whether it is the President, Chairman or an Agent shall be held guilty unless he can prove that the defacement occurred without his prior knowledge.