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EC cautions parties against use of children in poll campaigning

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NewsDrum Desk
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New Delhi, Feb 5 (PTI) Ahead of Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission on Monday asked political parties not to use children in campaigning "in any form whatsoever", including for distribution of posters and pamphlets or sloganeering.

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In an advisory sent to parties, the poll panel conveyed its "zero tolerance" towards use of children in any manner during the electoral process by parties and candidates.

Separately, the commission has also directed all election officials and poll machinery to refrain from involving children in any capacity during election-related work or activities.

District election officers and returning officers will "bear personal responsibility" to ensure compliance with all relevant acts and laws pertaining to child labour.

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"Any violation of these provisions by election machinery under their jurisdiction will result in severe disciplinary action," it warned.

Political leaders and candidates should not use children for campaign activities in any manner, including for holding a child in their arms, carrying a child in a vehicle or in rallies, the poll watchdog said.

"This prohibition extends to the use of children to create the semblance of a political campaign in any manner including use through poem, songs, spoken words, display of insignia of political party or candidate...," EC said in a statement.

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However, the mere presence of a child accompanied by their parent or guardian in proximity of a political leader who is not involved in any election campaigning activity by the political party, will not be construed as a violation of the guidelines, it noted.

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar has consistently emphasised the pivotal role of political parties as the EC's key stakeholders, urging them to become active partners in upholding democratic values, especially in view of forthcoming parliamentary polls.

The advisory on children came days after its earlier advisory to political parties to maintain respectful discourse towards persons with disabilities (PwDs).

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EC also reminded parties and candidates of the relevant laws dealing with child labour and asked them to ensure strict compliance.

It noted that in 2014, the Bombay High Court had also stressed the need to ensure that political parties do not allow participation of minor children in any election-related activities.

Since Rajiv Kumar took over as the CEC, the poll panel has been actively implementing directives aimed at streamlining various activities of political parties.

These measures include the establishment of an online portal to facilitate transparent financial disclosures by political parties for timely submission of statutory reports and to facilitate vigil on misuse of enabling statutory provisions.

Additionally, the EC has undertaken initiatives to identify and delist fraudulent Registered Unrecognized Political Parties (RUPPs). PTI NAB NAB SKY SKY

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