Madras High Court Challenges ECI's Authority in DMK Case Over Political Ad Guidelines

Madras HC, in DMK v. ECI, questions ECI's jurisdiction over High Courts. DMK challenges 2023 guidelines on political ads & rejection of pre-certificates. Court seeks clarity on interim orders' validity. Adjourned pending further submissions.

In a recent development, the Madras High Court questioned the Election Commission of India's (ECI) authority in limiting the jurisdiction of the High Courts. The court highlighted that the ECI cannot override the powers vested in the High Courts under Article 226 of the Constitution.

Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Sathya Narayana Prasad presided over the bench hearing a plea filed by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). The DMK challenged the 2023 Consolidated guidelines regulating political advertisements on television channels and cable networks. Additionally, the party contested the Chief Electoral Officer's order confirming the rejection of pre-certificates before the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections.

During the proceedings, the ECI, in response to the petition's maintainability, referred to a Supreme Court ruling in Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v. Gemini TV. According to the ECI, this ruling limited aggrieved parties to approach only the Supreme Court against the rejection of pre-certificates.

In the recent hearing, Shunmugasundaram, representing the DMK, argued that the 2004 judgment was applicable only for that specific period. He emphasized that the ruling's scope was confined to that time frame and that any interim orders issued would lose validity upon the case's final disposal.

The court seemed inclined to agree with this argument, noting that once a case reaches its final resolution, interim orders become obsolete. Consequently, the court inquired about the existence of a speaking order in the case and requested a copy of the final order.

While expressing initial skepticism regarding the ECI's authority to issue notifications limiting the court's jurisdiction, the court instructed both parties to provide a copy of the final orders by the following day and adjourned the proceedings.