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EC scraps notice to Rahul over TV interviews, to set up panel to review model code of conduct

By Deepika

The Election Commission on Sunday withdrew the notice to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his TV interview that he gave just before the second phase of voting for Gujarat elections.

Rahul Gandhi

Considering the "multi-fold expansion of digital and electronic media", the commission further decided setting up a committee to review the extent of the code (section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951). The panel will "examine these provisions in the prevailing context of communication technologies and suggest required changes", it said.

In an order issued on Sunday night, it said the proposed committee will have members from the poll panel, the information and broadcasting, law and IT ministries, in addition to those from the National Broadcasters Associations (NBA) and Press Council of India (PCI).

The poll body had on December 13 issued the show cause notice to Rahul Gandhi for "prima facie" violating the provisions under the election law and the model code by giving interviews to TV channels.

While withdrawing the notice, it told the Congress and the BJP, "The Commission is of the considered view that due to multi-fold expansion of digital and electronic media, the extant Model Code of Conduct, Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951, and other related provisions require revisiting to cater to the requirement and challenges of the present and emerging situations."

The order comes in the wake of controversies over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's FICCI meeting, Rahul Gandhi's TV interviews and the release of BJP manifesto in Gujarat -- all after campaigning had ended in the state.

After the EC passed the order, the Congress said if the commission had issued the notice just to prevent the telecast of Rahul Gandhi's interviews.

Congress communications in charge Randeep Surjewala tweeted, "If Election Commission has withdrawn its notice issued to Sh. Rahul Gandhi, two bonafide questions must be asked-: 1. Was it a mere ploy to prevent TV channels from showing his interview? and 2. Is it a justification for no action or registration of an FIR against PM & Ministers?"

The commission also said that proposed panel to review section 126 of the Representation of the People Act will have members are drawn from the EC, Information & Broadcasting, law and IT ministries as also National Broadcasters Associations (NBA) and the Press Council of India (PCI).

The commission said Section 126 of the RP Act does not take into account communication revolution and "it appears imperative to revisit the provisions relating to the last 48 hours before completion of the poll to appropriately address challenges unleashed by fast-changing technologies in the context of multi-phase polls."

OneIndia News (with agency inputs)

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