Safeguarding the environmental element in the heat of political interests
India is a fast-developing progressive country at least that is what we represent ourselves to be at the international level, regardless of the internal turmoil we face. Thus, the governance of this country holds vital significance, inter alia for the one in power is the leader the largest democracy in the world, all of which has led to the eternal tussle of the national political parties to usurp for themselves the majority. As a citizen of this overrated democracy, one need not elaborate on the amount of publicity stunts preferred through rallies, banners with the huge portraits of the politicians, distribution of banners (even if it violates code of conduct, often alleged as conspiracy, when pointed out), sticking posters on random walls and (yes) illusive promises, which become elusive for the political parties, once the party is in power, or rather worse in majority.
The article focuses on the printing of pamphlets and posters and their use in elections.
First things first, as per S.127A the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, such printing is restricted; the section is reproduced as follows:
“127A. Restrictions on the printing of pamphlets, posters etc.
- No person shall print or publish, or cause to be printed or published, any election pamphlet or poster which does not bear on its face the names and addresses of the printer and the publisher there of.
- No person shall print or cause to be printed any election pamphlet or poster-
i) unless a declaration as to the identity of the publisher thereof, signed by him and attested by two persons to whom he is personally known, is delivered by his to the printer in duplicate; and
ii) unless, within a reasonable time after time printing of the document, one copy of the declaration is sent by the printer, together with one copy of the document.
a) where it is printed in the capital of the State, to the Chief Electoral Officer; and
b) in any other case, to the district magistrate of the district in which it is printed.
- For the purposes of this section:-
i) any process for multiplying copies of a document, other than copying it by hand, shall be deemed to be printing and the expression “printer” shall be construed accordingly,
ii) “election pamphlet or poster” means any printed pamphlet, and bill or other document distributed for the purpose of promoting or prejudicing the election of a candidate or group of candidates or any placard or poster having reference to an election, but does not include any handbill, placard or poster merely announcing the date, time, place and other particular of an election meeting or routine instructions to election agents or workers.
- Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both.”
One of possible legislative intent, can be traced as an environmentally judicious one, which seeks to reduce the pollution and logging of forests owing to paper-making industries, which also disrupts the life of the tribal.
However the provision is, seldom, paid no heed to, as often the violation is not reported, or when reported, there is no timely action taken against the offenders, because of which such publication and circulation is with impunity. Timely enforcement is as important as rule of law as the making of legislation.1 Resultantly despite legislation in place, the guilty go scot-free.
This is what happens at the macro national level, but does one really bother to point out when such incidences take place at comparatively micro level, say state or city or university elections. Often the answer remains a dismal yes, just to fulfil the social obligation of being a law-abiding citizen, but the reality remains that nobody really cares or those who care, do not bother to raise their voice. Though certain states do have their own set of legislation, reinforcing the restriction, there is hardly any adherence.
The recent Delhi University Student Union (DUSU) Elections, made headlines as to how the ABVP wing emerged victorious, completely crushing the AAP Student Wing CYSS, wherein Kejriwal himself was present for the campaigning. But what goes amiss is the environmental mess the election created. The rules of DUSU election 2015-16, lacking a provision enforcing S.124A of the Representation of People’s Act, witnessed an environmental mesh. This was brought to notice of the National Green Tribunal, by a student of a law school in Delhi, Nitin Chandran, represented pro bono by a PSP Legal partner Piyush Singh.2
The matter was admitted on 16th September 2015 in NGT and alongside notices were also issued to the concerned authorities and parties to the case in hand. DUSU, for the time being has been restrained from pasting pamphlets, etc. on the walls of DU as well as public streets.
The prima facie contention being, indiscriminate loss of natural resources and pollution caused by the litter so created and the defacing of walls, in addition to the violations of the Lyngdoh Committee’s Recommendations to the UGC, with respect to the elections. Further, highlighting the paper-less election system of the West, alternative environmental-friendly modes of canvassing, were urged for, to be passed as directives by the oh-so-invincible-NGT.
While the matter, remains sub-judice, there is not really much to say, but all that one can really hope for is that, at least NGT does not let down the hopes of many who view it as the sole saviour of the repute of judiciary, as the guardian and protector of the laws, and as an irrevocable element of the democracy, acting as an essential check and balance on the other branches, i.e. the Legislative and the Executive.
- One of the early examples of litigation regarding such publication is the Rahim Khan Vs. Khurshed Ahmed, decided by V. Krishnaiyer, J. (AIR 1975 SC 290).
- Original Application 402/2015, before the National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Coram of HMJ U.D. Salvi and Expert R. Chatterjee.
Submitted By –
BALLB – II, ILS Law College, Pune