New Delhi : The Election Commission of India (ECI) today issued an order prohibiting display in electronic media including cinematograph of any biopic or publicity material in the nature of biography/hagiography sub-serving the purposes of any political entity or any individual entity connected to it.

This means ECI on Wednesday banned the screening of the biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the election period. The Vivek Oberoi starrer movie based on the life of Prime Minister Modi was to be released on April 11 (Thursday). The first phase of Lok Sabha elections begins Thursday.

Several petitions were filed including by Congress leaders. One of the application was filed by Satish Gaiwad, national president, Republican Party of India(I), through Adv Tosif Shaikh and Adv Brajesh Kumar. Accordingly Petition was Flied in Hon’ble Bombay High Court on 26 March 2019, after it on 27 March 2019 ECI issued notice to producers of the movie. Hon’ble Bombay High court disposed the petition by directing the ECI to take necessary action. Accordingly special leave petition was filed in Hon’ble Supreme Court and the same was admitted and is scheduled on 15th of April.

Election Commission of India has announced General Elections to 17’h Lok Sabha, 2019 on 10th March, 2019 and from the date of announcement of the elections, the Model Code of Conduct has come into operation. The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is an umbrella code, developed in consultation with the political parties, facilitates level playing field to all the political parties and the candidates and it inter-alia seeks to ensure that the power of media is not used in such a manner which affects the general conduct and level playing field during the electoral process.

The Election Commission of India order states, “It has come to the notice of the Commission that certain political contents, which are not in conformity with the Model Code of Conduct, are being displayed or intended to be displayed to the public through electronic media including cinematograph in the public, which relates to either a candidate or a political party or a specific achievement of the party in power and these are displayed with the purpose of furtherance of electoral gains during the period of Model Code of Conduct. Also, it has come to the notice of the Commission that there are instances of displaying of such political contents on electronic media, which discredit or diminish the electoral prospect of candidate or a political party(ies). So far, the Commission has received complaints about certain cinemas namely `NTR Laxmi’, `PM Narendra Modi’, and Vdyarna Simham’, which are claimed to either diminish or advance the electoral prospect of a candidate or a political party in the garb of creative freedom. It is claimed that such creative contents 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 part of creative content, it is contended that these have propensity and potentiality to affect the level playing field wich is not in consonance with the provisions of the MCC. Under Article 324 of the Constitution, superintendence, directions and control of elections are bestowed upon the Commission and it is the duty of the Commission to take necessary measures to create a level playing field and provide a conducive electoral environment to all the stakeholders. In catena of judgements, Hon’ble Supreme Court has held and acknowledged that the Model Code of Conduct, which ensures free and fair electoral process, which is “sin qua non”for the electoral democracy. In this backdrop, the Commission is of the considered view that there is an emergent need for intervention in the matter of those ‘political contents’ which are intended (or purported to be) for benefitting or discrediting the electoral prospect of any candidate or/and any political party, for ensuring a level playing field.”

Accordingly, the Commission ordered the following:

That any biopic material in the nature of biography/hagiography sub-serving the purposes of any political entity or any individual entity connected to it, which is intended to, or which has the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections, should not be displayed in electronic media including cinematograph during the operation of MCC.

That any poster or publicity material concerning any such certified content, which either depicts a candidate (including prospective) for the furtherance (or purported to further) of electoral prospect, directly or indirectly, shall not be put to display in electronic media in the area where MCC is in operation.

That any poster or publicity material concerning any such certified content, which either depicts a candidate (including prospective) for the furtherance (or purported to further) of electoral prospect, directly or indirectly, shall not be put to display in print media, without the prescribed instructions of pre-certification (ECI’s instruction No. 491/MCMC/2019/Communications dated 6th April 2019) in the area where MCC is in operation.

That in any cinematograph material, certified by the appropriate authority, if there exists such a violation or on receipt of a complains in this regard, a Committee, duly constituted by the Commission, shall examine the same and suggest appropriate action. This Committee shall be headed by a retired Justice of Hon’ble Supreme Court or retired Chief Justice of any Hon’ble High Court.