Govt will nail paid news, says minister

In a bid to clean up the poll process, the government may categorise “paid” news as an actionable offence during polls, besides taking “concrete steps” to end the influence of black money, law minister Ashwini Kumar said.

Responding to queries in the Rajya Sabha, Kumar said a Group of Ministers deliberated on insertion of paid news in the media, one of the corrupt electoral practises.

The GoM headed by Pranab Mukherjee was set up in 2011 and met a couple of times. After Mukherjee was elevation as President, not much progress was made and the GoM is yet to submit its report.

“The Press Council of India has recommended suitable amendments to the Representation of People’s Act in order to make ‘paid news syndrome’ an actionable offence. I personally believe there is merit in the suggestion,” he said, clearly hinting at UPA government’s plan to make “paid news” legally punishable.

Kumar said steps were being taken in the last three years to eradicate black money from the election process. "The Law Commission has been requested to give concrete suggestions by April, 2013. On its receipt, the matter will be examined,” he said.

The Election Commission is monitoring the influence of black money since 2010 Bihar polls. In the last three years, black money worth Rs 36.54 crore, Rs 36.29 crore and Rs 30.65 crore was recovered from Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh respectively.

“Any legislation on electoral reforms must find broad acceptance with the political leadership of all parties,” he said.

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