India: Electoral Laws & Digital Media

Last Updated: 9 May 2019
Article by Ashish Rohra

Media, being considered as the fourth pillar of democracy is one of the most important weapons being used especially during elections. Of all the media, digital media in today's digital world is the most used form of media, with the Loksabha elections currently being held all over the country, it is the responsibility of the Election Commission of India (EC) to keep a check on the candidate's and party's promotions and their means and limit of promotion and to ensure the same, the EC must be conferred with the essential powers to deal with the upcoming issues like propaganda spreading, fake news, paid news, et cetera for which the use of digital media and social media is being made. Are the electoral laws strong enough to deal with more contemporary issues like these? Is the EC having enough powers to deal with problems arising from use of Digital Media?

The EC currently is working under the powers conferred under Art.324 of the Indian Constitution and now, when the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is already in place, this time; it has been instructed that the social media platforms too will have to follow the MCC. This step was taken mainly to tackle issues like online propaganda, paid news, et cetera.

The main base on which the propaganda is spread is the data collected from our social media platforms, the data which is personal to us and based on that, we see the content and the digital media platforms do not take the responsibility to monitor and verify the content which is posted on their websites. The present data protection law has limited applicability to political parties or to data brokers that market personal data at a massive scale. This enables the creation, for example, of WhatsApp groups based on voter lists coupled with phone numbers and caste, gender and other sensitive information to target voters with propaganda without their consent.

This time, the EC finally woke up to its powers and partnered with many digital media platforms including Facebook, one of the most used or to be more precise, misused platforms during elections. An official from Facebook had said, "Anyone

who wants to run an ad in India related to politics has to first confirm their identity and location, and give more details about who paid for or published the ad. We then run the ad with a 'Paid for by' or 'Published by' disclaimer and house it in a searchable Ad Library for seven years" The Facebook also agreed to give all the expenditure information to the EC.

Also, the EC had reportedly said, "All the provisions of model code of conduct shall also apply to the content being posted on the social media by candidates and political parties, For scrutiny, the district and state-level Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMC), which vet all electronic and radio advertisements during the model code period, will now also have a social media expert on board." Such social media platforms have to now take the responsibility to verify the content before allowing it to post. As seen above, the media content has to now go through a check by the MCMC and more recently, after the tie-up with EC, platforms like Facebook and Sharechat using Artificial Intelligence have been successfully removing millions of fake accounts following the self regulations. Yes, the EC had recommended the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and other social media platforms to undergo self regulations.

They then presented the "Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Elections 2019" in which the companies and the participants agreed to provide a mechanism for political advertisers to submit pre-certified advertisements only. The Code of Ethics also promises to facilitate transparency in paid political advertisements but the scope of the transparency and regulated content is very vague and in the absence of a clear legal basis, the code can be misused or used only in the favor of the participants.

>Under S.126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951; display of any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency is prohibited. But its application on social media platforms is not governed by any specific law and in that regard; a PIL was filed in Bombay High Court asking for a

similar blackout or silence period for social media platforms. The EC's defence stood the self regulations to which the Hon'ble HC expressed its views and questioned why is EC hesitating to issue any such orders.

>Contrary to that, the Supreme Court had expressed its happiness that the EC has finally waked up to its powers. The Statement came looking at the EC's actions being taken against the senior leaders like Yogi Adityanath, Mayawati for making communal speeches but the powers of the EC with respect to regulation of media content over various social media and other platforms is still a big question mark.


It is evident that the EC is empowered only under one provision of law i.e. Article 324 of the Indian Constitution. It is the only support for the EC to hold on to. To summarize the efforts taken by the EC to tackle digital media, it would not be wrong to say that the self regulations are not enough for the social media platforms to keep an eye over the content, the EC is having a hard time to enforce its powers not having specific laws to deal with the upcoming issues.

It is the need of the hour that the Electoral Laws in India must be drafted specifically into a new act giving powers to the authorities to deal with ever-growing area of digital media and its issues to ensure that the Elections are held in a truly fair and competitive manner and the true purpose of Democracy is served in a fair manner.


[1] ill-apply-to-social-media-too/articleshow/68350634.cms



[4] s.html

[5] ion-of-voters-indulging-in-electoral-malpractices-119042200475_1.html

[6] e-polls/


[8] es-%09of-andhra-pradesh-arunachal-pradesh-odisha-and-sikkim-2019-media-coverage-during-the-period-referred-to-in-section-126-of-rp-act-1951/

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions