In the ongoing Assembly polls for five States, the Election Commission has so far issued 167 notices to candidates who allegedly paid for the publication of news in their favour in various media outlets.
While the maximum numbers of 129 notices have been issued to candidates in Punjab, where polling was held on January 30, as many as 38 notices have been issued to candidates in Uttar Pradesh, where the elections are being held in seven-phases.
There had been no complaints about candidates resorting to paid news in Manipur and Uttarakhand, which went to polls on January 28 and 30 respectively, officials said.
A major chunk of complaints on paid news were against vernacular and regional media publications, they said.
However, no complaint has so far been proved in any of the cases though the poll panel would take a final view later and is awaiting the candidates’ responses.
EC officials in Delhi said all complaints received in this respect had been forwarded to the respective Chief Electoral Officers of the States concerned and they, in turn, had issued notices.
The complaints would be taken up by the respective district and State level Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMCs).
Poll body officials said there were fewer complaints involving paid news during Assembly polls this time as the candidates had become “cautious” of possible fallout.
The EC on October 20, 2011, had disqualified Umlesh Yadav, MLA from Bisauli Assembly Constituency, after finding him guilty of getting news published in his favour during 2007 U.P. polls by paying hefty amount to media outlets.
EC officials said this case had served as a deterrent for the candidates in future.
However, they admitted that many candidates might be trying to hoodwink the Commission by evolving novel methods in connivance with the media houses this time around.
During the State assembly polls held last year in April and May, 41 complaints had been received from Kerala, 23 from West Bengal, 147 from Tamil Nadu and four from Puducherry.
These complaints are still being investigated.
Likewise, in the 2010 November polls in Bihar, 121 such complaints had been brought to the EC’s notice.
Of these 121 cases, the EC found merit in 12 charges and forwarded the complaints to the Press Council of India for further action.