The Election Commission of India (ECI) has given directions regarding the use of Navratri/Dussehra venues during the general elections to Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly, 2012.

A spokesperson of election commission said here today that there would not be any ban on Navratri celebrations nor there was any prohibition on performing of ‘Aarti’ at such celebrations.

He said that there would be no prohibition on participation of political functionaries or leaders or intending candidates in such celebrations or ‘Aarti’ as ordinary participants. However, such celebrations should not be used as platform or forum for election campaigns as that would be violative of the provisions of Religious Institutions (Prevention and Misuse) Act, 1988. He added that use of forum/venue of Navratri celebrations for election campaigning by political parties, political functionaries or probable candidates etc. would not be permitted as it would amount to use of religious places/religion for political purpose or election campaigns.

While granting necessary permissions to the organizers of these events, conditions would be imposed. There would be no formal or publicized inaugural or closing ceremony with political functionaries as chief guests or special invitees. Moreover, distribution of any publicity material in any medium, print, electronic or digital of any party would also not be permitted at these forums or venues.

He said that the organizers of Navratri functions had to ensure that these venues were not used for political campaigning by anyone. Any violation of these instructions, including by organizers, would invite strict action under the relevant Laws/Rules and the Model Code of Conduct.

It is however, clarified that processions and public meetings etc. for political and election campaign in connection with current general elections and use of loudspeakers for the aforesaid processions and public meetings etc. would be permitted only between 6.00 AM and 10.00PM as per the order of the Supreme Court of India.