- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
EC stalls release of biopics
What to study?
- For Prelims: EC’s authority and jurisdiction and constitutional powers in this regard.
- For Mains: How biopics and such similar mediums influence voters during election times and what needs to be done?
What is it?
The Election Commission of India has banned the release of any biopic, including a film on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was scheduled to release on April 11, the same day when the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections are scheduled to begin.
What has the EC ruled?
Any poster or publicity material concerning any such certified content, which either depicts a candidate for the furtherance of electoral prospect, directly or indirectly, shall not be put to display in print media, without the prescribed instructions of pre-certification in the area where MCC is in operation.
Any cinematograph material, certified by the appropriate authority, if there exists such a violation or on receipt of complains in this regard, shall be examined by a committee duly constituted by the commission, which will then suggest appropriate action. The committee would be headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court or retired Chief Justice of any High Court.
Why they should not be allowed?
They have potential to disturb level playing field during the election. Creative contents that are claimed to either diminish or advance the electoral prospect of a candidate or a political party in the garb of creative freedom are a kind of surrogate publicity by the candidate or the political party during the period of MCC.
Though the display materials claim to be a part of creative content, it is contended that these have propensity and potentiality to affect the level playing field, which is not in consonance with the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct.
As these contents are incorporated in the storyline of the programmes being shown and there would be difficulty in proving the payment of money, they may not fall under the category of ‘advertisement’ strictly and may remain outside the purview of MCC certification requirement and thereby evade the directive given by the Supreme Court.
According to the commission, such political contents pose a serious threat to the level playing field, as they may create an impression of the truthfulness of such content being shown through television, cinema, internet-based entertainment programmes or the social media.
Under Article 324 of the constitution, superintendence, directions and control of elections are bestowed upon the commission and it is its main duty to take necessary measures to create a level playing field and provide a conducive electoral environment to all the stakeholders.
Free and fair elections has not only been held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to be a part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution (People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs Union of India and Anr, 2013) but is also sacrosanct right of every citizen in a democracy.
Sources: the hindu.