On 8th April, 2014, Vishal Kudchadkar and Syed Ali Hussaini filed a complaint against Times NOW, Headlines Today, NDTV, CNN-IBN for telecasting BJP manifesto.
BJP had released its manifesto on 7th April, 2014. Some constituencies went to polls in Assam and Tripura that day. The telecast of BJP manifesto could be viewed across India including the aforementioned places. The complainants have alleged that such broadcasters violated Section 126(1) of the Representative of People Act, 1951 which prohibits any public display of election matter by means of cinematography, television and other similar apparatus during the period of 48 hours prior to the end of polling. According to complainants, such live telecast was carried out in spite of specific instructions to the contrary from the Election Commission of India and they contend that it also violated Guideline 12 of the NBA Guidelines for Election Broadcasts. The complainants, being not satisfied with the response from the broadcasters denying any violation, complained to the NBSA with a request to take action against the erring channels.
Guideline 12 of NBA Guidelines on Election Broadcasts provides:
“The broadcasters shall not broadcast any ‘election matter’ that is, any matter intended or calculated to influence or affect the result of an election during the 48 hours ending with the hours fixed for the conclusion of poll, in violation of Section 126 (1) (b) of the Representation of People Act, 1951.”
NBSA notes that the Guideline 12 will have to be considered with reference to the realities of multi-phase elections. The multi-phase elections in April-May 2014 were held during the course of 36 days. If the prohibition relating to broadcast of election matters during 48 hours is to be applied in regard to each phase of election for the entire country, the result would be that there could not be any debate, discussion, announcement, report or coverage of any election related issue on TV during a period of about 27 days out of 36 days. That would adversely affect the right of candidates to effectively campaign during the election. Surely, that was not the object of Guideline 12.
After hearing contentions from both the sides, the complainants and the news channels in question, News Broadcasting Standards Authority has ruled that it has no jurisdiction to decide whether there is a violation of said rules in the absence of finding thereon by a competent Court. The complaints are found to have no merit and are closed.