New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has sought the city government’s response on a plea seeking quashing of its guidelines banning political advertisements on public service vehicles.

A bench of justices B D Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul issued notice to the Transport Department of Delhi government, New Delhi Municipal Council and others while posting the matter for further consideration on January 28.

The high court was hearing a plea by Social Justice For Human Welfare, filed through Shefali Malhotra, challenging the legality and constitutionality of the Guidelines on Display of Advertisement on Public Service Vehicle issued by the transport department under Rule 71(2) of the Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules, 1993.

On August 1, Delhi government had placed its latest guidelines for display of advertisements on public service vehicles according to which any ad containing political, ethnic, religious or sectarian text will not be permitted.

It had specified that the vehicle owner needed to obtain an approval from municipal authorities before displaying any political advertisements on public service vehicles.

“Advertisements cannot be displayed without approval from municipal bodies and are allowed only for vehicles having GPS/GPRS systems,” the guidelines had said.

The plea alleged that this amounts to an ‘unreasonable restriction’ on the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a).

“The legal parameters within which an advertisement maybe made and published is well defined under the Code of Advertising Practice. Any action in breach of these legal bounds would invite consequences,” it said.

“It is submitted that the impugned guidelines insofar as it imposes restrictions on the content of advertisements in addition to the prevailing law, and requires prior approval to be taken by the respondents, amounts to pre-censorship,” the plea said.

It also alleged that the guidelines prescribe no procedure for grant of permits by the respondents and do not provide an opportunity of hearing to persons prior to rejection of approval.

The plea contends that the guidelines create a distinction between public service vehicles having GPS/GPRS system and those that do not as the former are eligible to apply for permits to publish certain advertisement while the latter are not.

It claimed that the guidelines lack “legal certainty” as the consent accorded under said guidelines does not provide protection to the vehicle owner from the current law in force.

“The new rules provides multiple authorities for implementing the impugned guidelines and empowers respondents to revise or amend the guidelines without any liability to any party,” the plea added.

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