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Report No. 255

(iv) Disclosure for political advertisements

7.51.1. As demonstrated above, currently guidelines for disclosure of political advertisements are scattered and non-uniform. In order to curb the practice of disguised political advertisement, disclosure provisions should be made mandatory for all forms of media. The purpose of disclosure is two fold: (a) to help the public identify the nature of the content (paid content or editorial content), and (b) to keep the track of transactions between the candidates and the media. Therefore, the extent to which the disclosure is being sought should serve these purposes.

For example, the content should carry in bold letters "This content is sponsored" or "This is an advertisement". Further, it should use style including fonts etc. in a way that it can be clearly distinguished from news. This form should contain the details of the sponsor of the content. This should be made applicable to all political advertising. A failure to adhere to this requirement should be considered an electoral offence.

7.51.2. However, much of the disclosure requirement is a question of detail that is best left to the discretion of the ECI. It would be unwise for a law to lay down the specifics of disclosure which might need to evolve over time and be dynamic across different media. Accordingly, the Commission recommends the introduction of Section 127C in the RPA which will read as follows:

"127C. Non-disclosure of interest in political advertising.- (1) Any political advertisement in any media shall carry a disclosure to this effect in the form and manner notified by the ECI in this regard.

(2) Any person who contravenes the provision of sub-section (1) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or fine which may extend to five lakh rupees, or both."

7.51.3. A provision similar to the suggested Section 126D discussed in the next chapter should also be incorporated as section 127D in the event that it is an offence committed by a company.

"127D. Offences by companies.- (1) Where an offence under sub-section (1) of Section 127B has been committed by a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly:

Provided that nothing contained in this sub-section shall render any such person liable to any punishment provided in this Act if he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence.

(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), where an offence under this Act has been committed by a company and it is proved that the offence has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company, such director, manager, secretary or other officer shall also be deemed to be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.

Explanation.- For the purpose of this section,-

(a) "company" means any body corporate, and includes a firm or other association of individuals; and

(b) "director", in relation to a firm, means a partner in the firm."

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