EC proposes making paid news an electoral offence

EC proposes making paid news an electoral offence

EC proposes making paid news an electoral offence

Seeking to provide a level-playing field for parties in elections, the Election Commission has proposed making paid news an electoral offence to provide a strong deterrent in a bid to stamp out the menace.

It also wants a ceiling on the campaign expenditure of political parties that is used as a ruse to pump in unlimited resources.

Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath says that if paid news is made an electoral offence, then it will serve as a "deterrent" on those violating the law.

"Paid news is really a matter of serious concern for the is not an electoral offence. We have proposed to the Law Ministry that paid news should be made an electoral offence," Sampath told PTI.

He said once paid news is made an electoral offence, then it can be a ground to take action against the guilty candidate under election petition.

The EC's proposal in this regard to the government is pending for two years.

"Action will be more deterrent. Action now is without backup of law," he explained.

He said political parties in various states the EC has visited have expressed concern over the issue of paid news.

The CEC was of the view that organisations such as the Press Council of India and News Broadcasters Association should also use their powers to curb the practice of paid news.

Responding to questions on whether the poll watchdog plans to put a limit on spending by political parties in campaigning, the CEC said that there should be a ceiling.

"There is no limit on expenditure for party. But there is a limit for candidates...there should be a limit for political parties also," Sampath said.

Asked whether the EC has proposed the ceiling amount to the government, he said there should be an agreement on the principle of limit.

"Lawmakers can apply their minds (on the maximum amount a party can spend on campaigning)." He said a lack of ceiling "disturbs level playing field."

He said parties use paid news as a means of campaigning and the EC can do little in this regard.

The CEC informed that EC's monitoring committees found 80 confirmed cases of paid news during Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections. Haryana reported 67 cases, while the rest were from Maharashtra.

Asked about the case of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, CEC pointed out that the case related to election expenditures and not paid news.