Cong unhappy with restrictions on PA systems and public meetings

Gangtok, 04 Mar:

Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee has expressed reservations over the stipulations announced by the State administration on use of public address systems and public meetings.

An SPCC press release issued today informs that the administration has notified political parties that permission to use PA systems and loudspeakers will be granted only in certain designated locations for public meetings.

The release adds that while this might have been done for ease of regulation by the authorities or to minimize perceived inconvenience to the general public, such restrictions hamper and limit options for political parties and individual candidates, restricting their right to campaign freely and reach out to as many people as possible.

The release points out while holding public meetings in grounds away from market places may be feasible for political parties with “ample resources at their disposal,” it was not practical for smaller political parties and independent candidates with limited resources.

“When the system does not ensure a mechanism where every political party or individual candidates get the opportunity to freely campaign and reach out to as much of the electorate as possible, it interferes with the peoples' fundamental rights to expression and to choose their representatives. These constitutional rights should be safeguarded by the administration in order to uphold the values and ethics of democracy, especially during the election period,” the release details further.

The party has also pointed out that PA systems are otherwise widely used in Sikkim for political, social, and religious functions and even melas, entertainment events and tambola, hence the restrictions during election season amounts to restricting the freedom of citizens and political parties to freely participate.

Congress is insisting that the authorities allow holding of public meetings and the use of loudspeaker systems at street corners, bazaars and small public venues in addition to large open grounds, in order to encourage maximum participation of the citizens in this democratic exercise.

In this regard, an SPCC delegation led by its president Bharat Basnet and working president Dr Dipendra Gurung met the Chief Electoral Officer of Sikkim, R Telang, today and apprised him of these concerns and requested his office to look into the matter.

He has assured the delegation that the matter will be discussed at the all party meeting of the commission and opinions of other political parties sought in this regard, the release informs.

SPCC has also appealed to all political parties and the civil society to support its stand on this matter and work towards ensuring free and fair elections in Sikkim.