The Election Commission has recommended to the Law Ministry to treat all paid news as an electoral offence since it had been causing “maximum damage” to the electoral process, Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath on Saturday said.

“Corruption implications of paid news has its impact on every one... media, candidates and people and it is one that causes maximum damage to the electoral process”, Mr. Sampath said while delivering a key-note address at a seminar on ‘Electoral Reforms’, in Thiruvananthapuram.

Paid news should be made an electoral offence so that all those who indulge in it face consequences, he said.

On election model code of conduct for political parties, Mr. Sampath said the practice of giving advertisements by governments in power on its achievements just days before the announcement of poll dates should be stopped. However, there could be exception for issues connected with health, poverty alleviation schemes and on consumer interest, he said.

Stressing that radical reform in the poll arena was the need of the hour, Mr. Sampath said decriminalisation of politics, transparency in the functioning of political parties and auditing of political parties funds were some of the areas that needed urgent attention.

On the steps taken in this regard, Mr. Sampath said, “We have a long way to go in electoral reforms. Inadequacies have been felt and expressed in many areas. Remedial measures are slow in coming“.

Law to prohibit candidates with criminal records was underway. “However, you cannot expect a drastic change in such things in a short time”, he said.

He ruled out the possibility of making voting by a person mandatory by law. In the last Parliament polls, about 30 crore people did not vote. “So if voting was made mandatory by law, CEC has to take cases against 30 crore people”, he said, adding, it would only add burden of judiciary.

The Election Commission does not believe in compulsion and instead it has launched a nation-wide campaign to promote participation of electorates in voting process, he said, adding the efforts in this regard have reaped success in the recent elections held in five states.

The voting percentage was the highest in the recent history.

Later, when reporters asked about the reaction of the government on Election Commission’s recommendations, Mr. Sampath said, “This question has to be put before the Law Minister and parliamentarians“.

On the next poll date, he said the term of the present Lok Sabha expires on May 31 next year. The Election Commission was mandated to conduct the polls before that date. “We will fulfil responsibility in this regard”, he said

Normally, general elections are held in phases. Last time they were held in six stages, he said.

The seminar was organised by Centre for Parliamentary Studies and Training Secretariat of the Kerala Legislature.

Kerala Assembly Speaker G. Karthikeyan and Chief Electoral Officer Kerala, Nalini Netto were among those attended the function.

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