Will curb un-verified political ads on social media: Election Commission to Bombay High Court.

The Election Commission (EC) Monday told the Bombay High Court that it will issue directions prohibiting all social media platforms from displaying political advertisements not pre-verified by it.

The EC, through its counsel Pradeep Rajagopal, told the high court that a meeting between the commission and all social media intermediaries was scheduled for Tuesday.

Following the same, its new directions imposing several prohibitions on political advertisements, and other ads concerned with “national interest”, will be finalised and implemented.

Rajagopal made the submissions before a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar.

The bench has been hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Sagar Suryavanshi, seeking directions to the EC to regulate fake news in the form of paid political ads on social media.

In compliance with the court’s previous orders, the commission submitted an affidavit on Monday, informing the HC of the proposed pre-verification rules for political ads.

In its affidavit, the EC said it will also “evolve a notification mechanism” for identifying and flagging such political ads that have not received its pre-verification, but have been posted on social media platforms.

“The intermediaries will also have to expeditiously remove any advertisement or information already posted without the verification certificate from the commission,” the affidavit said.

“A code of conduct is being evolved in consultation with the Internet and Mobile Association of India and the social media intermediaries to incorporate the above measures and any other direction issued by this court,” it said.

On previous hearing, social networking portal Facebook told the HC that it had introduced a strict “verification processes” for all political ads and paid content of “national interest” in India ahead of the general election.

The new system ensures that only bonafide individuals, who are citizens of India, and political organisations based in the country can place political ads.

Twitter and YouTube had told the bench that they permitted only such political ads which were verified by the EC.

Why no order yet to prohibit political ads on social media: The Bombay High Court


The Bombay High Court Thursday asked the Election Commission of India why it was hesitant to issue specific directions to prohibit political advertisements on social media 48 hours before election day.

A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar posed the question after the poll panel submitted that it was deliberating on bringing in such a direction, and currently, consulting experts and stakeholders.

“But, how long will the deliberations go on? Why don’t you take a decision, say yes, we are going to issue specific orders (to the above effect)?” the bench said.

It was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a lawyer, Sagar Suryavanshi, seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to regulate fake news in the form of paid political ads on social media.

The PIL had also urged the court to direct the ECI to prohibit all persons, whether politicians or private individuals, from posting advertisements related to politics or the elections, or paid political content on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, 48 hours before election day.

During the previous hearing, social media platform Facebook had told the court that it had introduced a strict “pre-verification processes” for all political ads and paid content of “national interest” on their websites in India ahead of the 2019 general elections.

The new system ensures that only bona fide individuals, who are citizens of India, and political organisations based in the country can place political ads.

Twitter and YouTube told the bench Thursday that they only permitted such political ads that had been verified by the ECI.

The social media sites, however, told the court that they could not voluntarily impose a 48-hour ban as sought by the petitioner.

The counsels for Facebook, Google, and YouTube said they could prohibit display of political ads on their websites 48 hours before polling day, if they are directed by the ECI to do so.

The Representation of the People Act already prohibits political campaigning 48 hours before polling day and a notification of the ECI regulating ads on TV and print media prohibits publication of political ads 48 hours before the polling day.

The court, therefore, asked why the ECI could not formulate a similar direction for political ads on social media.

Bombay High Court asks BEST workers’ union to decide on withdrawal of strike

The Bombay High Court has directed the BEST workers’ union to take a final decision on the withdrawal of its ongoing strike by Tuesday evening and inform the court on Wednesday.

The direction came after the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) told a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar that it was willing to implement the redressal measure suggested by a high-powered committee on granting an interim pay hike to its employees.

The counsel for BEST, M P Rao, told the bench that the corporation was “open to implementing a 10-step increment” for its employees with effect from February this year.

The increase, however, will be implemented subject to the fact that the strike was called off this (Tuesday) evening, Rao told the bench.

As per the previous submissions made by the BEST workers’ union and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the court, a ‘one-step’ increase in pay for BEST workers amounts to around Rs 330 per person per month.

In compliance with the court’s previous orders, the state government through Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, submitted a list of measures recommended by the committee to address the demands raised by the workers’ union.

The committee, headed by the Chief Secretary, was constituted by the state last week.

The committee in its report, has recommended among other things, that subject to the strike being called off, as an interim measure, workers be granted a ’10-step increase’ in salary for about 15,000 employees in a time-bound manner.

This amount of increment, however, will be subsumed in the final agreement.

It also recommended that upgradation and modernisation measures be implemented within the BEST, but no existing employees should be retrenched.

The bench has been hearing since last week a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Datta Mane, urging the court to pass interim orders directing the BEST workers to call off the strike immediately.

Around 38,000 BEST employees have been on strike since the last eight days now.

Some of their demands include a pay hike, revision of pay grade for junior level employees, and the merger of BEST’s budget with that of the BMC.

Rules for online sale of medicines will be finalised by Jan 31

The Union government informed the Bombay High Court Friday that it was likely to finalise draft rules for regulation of online sale of medicines by January end.

Union government’s lawyer D P Singh told a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar that in compliance with an order of the Madras High Court, the government has “already framed draft rules, and conducted a series of meetings with experts”.

The Union government is in the process of finalising the draft rules under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, and they will be notified soon, Singh added.

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by a college professor from the city in 2015, demanding that online sale of medicines, including ‘schedule H’ drugs which can not be sold without doctor’s prescription, be regulated.

The bench noted the issue was “crucial” as it concerns public health, and asked the Centre and the Maharashtra government about the steps being taken to ensure that medicines are sold only through licensed chemist shops.

In 2017, another bench of the Bombay High Court had appointed an amicus curiae (an expert to assist the court) in the matter.

The bench asked the amicus, advocate Zal Andhyarujina, for suggestions.

Advocate Singh then informed the judges that the Madras High Court had directed the Union government in December 2018 to notify the rules regarding online sale of medicines by January 31.

The judges said they will wait for the Union government to take appropriate action, and adjourned the hearing to February 4.

Nirav Modi’s illegal bungalow in Alibaug to be razed: Maha govt to HC

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government has informed the Bombay High Court that Nirav Modi’s bungalow at Alibaug beach has been razed by the state authorities. State government counsel PB Kakade told a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice MS Karnik that it also intends to demolish 58 other private properties for which notices have been served.

The state filed an affidavit in the court stating that orders to demolish Modi’s illegal bungalow have been issued. The bench was hearing a petition filed by an activist, Surendra Dhavale. As per the petition, such constructions had been carried out in violation of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority rules and the state’s land laws.

In 2010, Modi was issued a demolition notice. As many as 58 other such constructions by locals on Alibaug beaches will also be razed. The bench took note of the state’s submissions and scheduled the matter for further hearing on December 20.