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using minors in pollsThe Bombay High Court has asked Election Commission of India to state what action it would take against political parties who use children in election campaign or poll-related work.

The direction was given by a bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka which on September 30 asked the EC to declare its stand on the issue after a week.
The EC filed an affidavit stating that it had written a letter to the Chief Secretaries of states, electoral officers and political parties asking them to take steps to ensure that political parties do not use children in poll-related matters.

However, the bench noted that the affidavit was silent on what action would be taken in case children were used for such activities.
Posting the matter to October 7, the bench asked the EC to explain what action it would take against political parties for engaging children in election campaign or poll-related work. Unless this decision was taken, the letter written by EC would not serve any purpose, the bench observed.

The court was hearing a PIL seeking a ban on children in election work or campaigning.
On the last occasion, the bench had observed that this was a serious issue and prima facie it appears that the existing rules do not provide a ban on children in such activities. It asked the EC and government to look into the issue and make a provision to stop children’s participation in electioneering.

The court had also suggested the EC to amend the standard rules of conduct so as to stop children from participating in poll campaigns conducted by political parties
The standard rules of conduct are guidelines framed by the government for political parties during electioneering.

The petition, filed by Pune resident Chetan Bhutada, enclosed several photographs of children holding placards and flags and raising slogans. The photos pertained to the campaign conducted by various political parties in the state.

Petitioner’s lawyer Sriram Choudhari said children below the age of 14 years were roped in election campaign, thereby violating the provisions of Child Labour Act.

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