BJP Ads Ban Row: SC refused to interfere with HC order restraining BJP from derogatory ads against TMC

“Your rival is not your enemy” the vacation bench of Supreme Court observed while dismissing the plea filed by BJP against the Calcutta High Court order restrained BJP for publishing derogatory & MCC violative ads against TMC

On May 27, the Supreme Court dismissed the plea filed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the decision of the Calcutta High Court restraining BJP from publishing any derogatory advertisements against All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) which were violative of Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

The division bench (Vacation) of Supreme Court led by Justice KV Viswanathan and Justice J.K. Maheshwari while dealing the Special Leave petition (civil) Diary No. 24545/2024, refused to interfere with single bench order dated 20.05.2024 in WPA No. 14161/2024 and the division bench order dated 22.05.2024 in MAT No. 1024/2024 passed by the Calcutta High Court.

Why should we interfere, we have seen the advertisements and they are offensive,” the bench observed.

“You can always say you are the best, but we don’t want to lend our hands to promote further acrimony. Your rival is not your enemy,” the bench further added.

During the hearing Justice Viswanathan said “this is not the interest of the voter, this will degenerate” Live Law reported. The petition was then dismissed as withdrawn giving liberty to BJP to approach the high court.

Background of the Case:

On May 20, a single bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharya while hearing the Writ Petition Appeal No.14161 of 2024 filed by the TMC against the Election Commission of India for its inaction on the complaints of TMC over the allegedly slanderous and derogatory advertisements published by the BJP in violation of MCC, restrained the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from advertisements against the Trinamool Congress (TMC) which were allegedly derogatory and intended to insult rivals and levelling personal attacks and also pulled up Election Commission of India (ECI) for inaction. The High Court upon going through the advertisements of BJP noted that they were apparently violative of the MCC as well as the guidelines set by the Press Council of India.

In High Court, the writ petition was filed the TMC against the derogatory impugned advertisements dated May 4, 2024, May 5, 2024, May 10, 2024 and May 10, 2024 published by the ruling party BJP in violation of the letter and spirit of the MCC.

The Single bench slammed the ECI for inaction and restraint BJP from publishing ads:

The single bench of Calcutta High Court vide its order dated 20.05.2024 held that the said advertisements being directly contradictory to the MCC which operate as guidelines as well as being violative of the right of the petitioner and all citizens of India to a free, fair and untainted election process. The MCC clearly prohibits all participants in the election process from criticism of other parties or their workers based on unverified allegations or distortion.

Rejecting contention of ECI, the bench held that power of issuance of injunctions by writ courts in the context of ensuring free and fair election process is beyond the limited power of the ECI to deal with the complaints.

As per the MCC, during the election period, the print media should also refrain from publishing any unverified allegation against any candidate or political party either directly or impliedly as per guidelines issued by the Press Council of India. The court directed that Bharatiya Janata Party ought to be restrained from further publishing the same until further orders.

The order of High Court dated 20.05.2024 can be read here:

No relief to BJP even from Division Bench of the High Court:

Aggrieved from the decision of single bench, BJP moved an appeal before the division bench of Calcutta High court seeking quashing of the order of single bench dated 20.05.2024.

On May 22, the division bench of Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya of Calcutta High court dismissed the appeal preferred by the BJP against the order of single bench and observed that “You (BJP) are a national party. There should be an internal mechanism either at centre or state level which will approve what propaganda can be printed. There should be some Lakshman Rekha sir. National parties filing this…we are not complimenting them (TMC) but imagine the impact on normal people. Normally any ad will contain a company’s logo and their colour scheme. This is an ad by a party which does not have their colour scheme or logo. If you people keep fighting amongst yourselves, the victim is the person who is going to elect his representative, they get misinformed”.

The bench further added that “the appellant is not remediless. If they are so advised, they can approach the learned Single Bench for review of the order or for modification or recalling the observations etc. Therefore, at this juncture, we are not inclined to entertain this appeal. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed”.

The order of High Court dated 22.05.2024 can be read here:

Case Title: Bharatiya Janata Party vs. All India Trinamool Congress & Ors. SLP (C) Diary No. 24545/2024



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