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HC moved against ban on political ads on public vehicles

Posted on Aug 17 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Aug 17 : A petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking setting aside of the guidelines issued by teh Delhi government banning political advertisements on public service vehicles (PSVs).

The plea said the guidelines interfere with the right of smaller political parties to express their political views via advertisement on auto-rickshaws, etc., a much cheaper medium for expressing political speech.

The guidelines issued by the transport department and approved by Lt. General Najeeb Jung May 19, were submitted before a division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul earlier this month.

The guidelines stated approvals will not be granted if the advertisement contains "political, ethnic, religious or sectarian text".

The petition filed by auto union pleaded with the court to allow auto-rickshaw drivers to display advertisements or social messages on their vehicles carrying political content.

Saying that guidelines have been notified at the instance of major ruling political parties, the plea contended that larger political parties have means and "they spent lakhs and crores on advertisements to express their views to public".

"The guidelines suffer from mala fide as it has been finalised and notified at the instance of major ruling parties in an attempt to interfere with the constitutional rights of the smaller political parties," the plea said.

"It is only the small political parties who face difficulty to mete out such huge expanses and rather choose cheaper method to convey their political ideas at large," it added, asking court to allow the plea.

The new guidelines specify the system of approvals for advertisements and the areas where they can be displayed. Advertisements cannot be displayed without approval from municipal bodies and are allowed only for vehicles having GPS/GPRS systems.

Apart from political advertisements, those on sale of alcohol or tobacco products or those that refer to violence, indecency, obscenity, cruelty to animals or promotion of any racist or sectarian behaviour have also been banned.

The rules also state that no reflective material, psychedelic or moving displays can be used for the advertisements. PSVs in Delhi include all public transport options from rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, taxis, school buses and buses run by contractors or Delhi Transport Corporation.

In June last year, the former Sheila Dikshit government courted controversy by banning advertisements on PSVs after auto-rickshaws started sporting Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) posters in the run-up to the Delhi elections.

The auto unions approached the high court alleging the order was "discriminatory" since the Motor Vehicles Act allows government to only regulate and not prohibit advertisements on vehicles.

After the government informed the court about the guidelines, counsel appearing for auto union objected the transport department's move to ban posters carrying any political expression. The court asked this be filed as a separate plea challenging the guidelines.

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