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"Go to Odisha", Delhi HC refuses to hear plea against BJD's ads on welfare schemes

By Shreya Agarwal      12 January, 2024 05:11 PM      0 Comments

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has refused to entertain a plea moved against the alleged misuse of public funds by Biju Janta Dal (BJD) by advertising various State welfare schemes using its party symbol, a conch. The Court directed the petitioner to approach the Odisha High Court in this regard.

The Court was hearing a plea moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Odisha General Secretary, Jatin Mohanty.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora asked Mohanty to approach the Odisha High Court, stating, "Go there (Odisha High Court). Raise it over there.. (as) everything happened in Odisha. Advertisements were also done in Odisha.. (Therefore) forum conveniens is Odisha."

It added that the Delhi High Court is overburdened, but granted the petitioner the liberty to withdraw his plea and file it before the appropriate forum (Odisha High Court, according to the bench).

Referring to the issue raised with respect to political parties advertising the State's welfare schemes with their names and party symbols, the bench lamented, “That is the story in each State. It is not unique to one State. It is happening in every State."

Stating that as per information received in an RTI application, the BJD has spent Rs. 378 crores in advertisements in the last five years and an equal amount in self-propagation, the plea sought to restrain the Odisha state government from any further advertisements of state welfare schemes with the BJD party symbol.

Stating that despite a representation to the ECI in November last year for the cancellation of the BJD's reserved symbol for violating the model code of conduct, no order was passed in this regard, the petitioner called for directions to the ECI to take appropriate legal action against BJD.

The plea also stated that from the newspaper articles circulating every day, it "appeared that the party had other motives" (other than creating awareness amongst the general masses) for advertising the various State government welfare schemes, as similar advertisements had been widely reported on plying buses, social media, hoardings in gtate government offices, hospitals, cities and towns."

Questioning whether the act could be said to be in public interest, the plea sought action against BJD for violating the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 and the Model Code of Conduct.

Cause Title: Jatin Mohanty v. Election Commission of India & Ors.



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