Freedom of Expression

EC Orders FIRs Against TV Channels That Aired Rahul Gandhi’s Interview, Congress Says Attack on Media

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Modi had given interviews ahead of 2014 general elections but had had not been served with punitive notice.

Rahul Gandhi. Credit: Facebook/Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi. Credit: Facebook/Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi: The Election Commission on Wednesday ordered FIRs against TV channels that telecast Rahul Gandhi’s interview and served the Congress president with a show cause notice for allegedly violating the model code of conduct (MCC) a day before the second phase of polling began in Gujarat. The EC has given Gandhi time till  December 18 to respond to the notice.

“The Commission has received reports and complaints that on some TV channels interview given by you has been/is being displayed talking about elections to the legislative assembly of Gujarat, which are currently in progress,” the EC said in its notice.

“By giving such interview and its display on TV channels on December 13, 2017, you have prima facie violated the provisions of Para(1)(4) of the MCC, Section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 and Election Commission’s lawful instructions in this regard,” it said.

A delegation of Congress leaders comprising Ashok Gehlot, Anand Sharma and Randeep Surjewala rushed to the Commission on Wednesday night. They handed over a memorandum to the poll body.

“In case the yardstick of violation of model code of conduct is to be applied as is being done by EC order, register an FIR against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, finance minister Arun Jaitley, Union minister Piyush Goyal, BJP state president Jeetu Vaghani and other BJP leaders for flouting the model code of conduct,” the memorandum said.

Sharma said the EC should remain non-partisan.

Earlier in the day, Modi had launched an attack on the Congress, saying that banks were pressured under its rule to give loans worth thousands of crores to select industrialists, describing it as the UPA government’s biggest scam. He also attacked “economists” in the UPA for burdening him with the “liability” of non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans at a time when he is ramping up his government’s pro-poor schemes.

Surjewala said the EC’s move against news channels for airing Gandhi’s interview was against the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution.

The Congress memorandum said: “The Election Commission is duty bound to be fair and impartial. We have to regrettably state the apparent discrimination and an apparent advantage being given to the ruling party militates against this notion.”

It requested the poll body to immediately withdraw its order directing registration of an FIR against news channels for telecasting the interview of Gandhi.

It also demanded that EC give directions to all print and electronic media outlets not to carry any news item with regard to elections and not to live telecast pictures of leaders casting votes.

Surjewala alleged the EC order was an attempt to “suppress the media”, and claimed the BJP was exerting pressure on the poll panel.

He said Modi had given interviews ahead of the 2014 general elections but no case was registered then. “These double standards will not be allowed,” he said.

“New norms for justice by ECI-: FM, BJP leaders hold a PC in Ahmedabad and release Manifesto on December 8 – No FIR. Modiji does 4 public meetings in December 9 – No FIR. Amit Shahji does a PC at Ahemdabad today – No FIR. Piyush Goyalji does 2 PCs today – No FIR. Rahulji’s interview – FIR. Jai Ho!,” Surjewala tweeted.

With inputs from agencies