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Bihar polls: EC warns against statements repugnant to women

Announcement of schedule for elections to Bihar Assembly

New Delhi:  Ahead of Bihar Assembly polls next month, the Election Commission has warned candidates and political leaders against making statements during campaigning which are repugnant to the dignity of women.

The poll watchdog has also asked political parties and their candidates to maintain high standards during the election campaign, saying it is putting all political parties on notice that any violation of Model Code of Conduct and use of intemperate, abusive language may invite “action”.

EC officials said the reason for asking candidates and leaders against using distasteful language against women is based on its experience in the past Assembly elections.

“During the Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly polls, there were complaints that candidates used foul language against rivals, including women,” an official said.

“The Commission also advises political parties and candidates to refrain from any deeds/action/otherwise that may be construed as being repugnant to honour and dignity of women,” the EC advisory sent to all national and state parties last week said.

While issuing the advisory, the Commission also enclosed a previous advisory issued to parties and their leaders in November 2013 which made it clear that the freedom of expression is “not absolute”.

“The Commission duly recognises the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution guaranteed to citizens of India, but it also needs to be pointed out that such right to freedom of speech and expression is not absolute….

“(It) is to be exercised in such a manner that it does not transcend, inter alia, the boundaries of decency and morality or disturb public order or amount to defamation or give incitement to an offence as ordained in clause (2) of Article 19. The Model Code of Conduct aims and seeks to achieve that very objective by its various provisions,” the 2013 advisory had said.

The Bihar Assembly polls will be held in five phases on October 12, 16, 28, November 1 and 5. Counting of votes will take place on November 8.

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