The Delhi High Court has upheld the Election Commission's (EC) decision not to allow display of any political advertisements metro rail premises and trains during the model code of conduct (MCC), saying the restriction was reasonable and in the interest fair polls.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva termed EC's rationale as "laudable".
"Keeping in view of the purpose for which the directions have been issued i.e., holding of a free, fair and transparent elections, I am of the view that the restrictions, as imposed by the respondent 1 (EC), are reasonable and do not violate any provision of the Constitution of India," the court said.
The order of the court came while dismissing an outdoor advertising agency's plea.
The agency had challenged EC's June 2019 direction which asked Delhi Metro to incorporate a clause in its contracts with ad agencies prohibiting display of political ads on space provided on commercial lease during the MCC.
The proposed clause also said that any political advertisement displayed in such spaces shall be removed immediately on the enforcement of the MCC.
The agency contended that there was already a clause in the contract prohibiting display of any advertisement which violated the MCC.
However, the earlier clause did not prohibit all political ads during the poll period.
Rejecting the agency's contention that its freedom to carry out trade was being restricted, the court said the clause proposed by EC would remain in effect for only one month, when the MCC was in operation, and during the said period other non-political advertisements can be displayed.
"There are no absolute restrictions on the petitioners in carrying on any business or trade. There is only a restriction which is imposed on the petitioners on displaying a particular type of advertisement and restriction is to remain enforced only for a limited period.
"The restriction is not unreasonable keeping in view the object sought to be achieved by the impugned directions i.e. of free, fair and transparent election," the court said.