The Director-General (Expenditure) of the Election Commission of India, P.K. Dash, said on Thursday that an elected legislator could face disqualification as well as criminal proceedings — which could lead to a prison term of six months as well as a fine — if he/she resorts to “paid news” in any form of media during the coming elections to the Punjab Assembly.

Mr. Dash, who was chairing a workshop with the media, said the Election Commission wanted the cooperation of the media to tackle the menace and also to generate awareness among the people regarding the importance of voting.

He said a person who presented himself on behalf of any candidate for inclusion of an advertisement would be required to file a declaration duly attested by two witnesses. In the event of the candidate concerned disowning such a person, the authorities shall initiate criminal proceedings against the latter.

Election expenses

Every candidate would be required to start and declare a separate bank account for election purposes before starting the campaign. The funds utilised from other accounts would attract penal provisions. He clarified that the presence of the candidate or his photograph on the stage of a dignitary or celebrity during the campaign would be included in the expenditure of the particular candidate, he said.

‘Observe instructions'

Mr. Dash advised journalists to observe instructions from the ECI and the State Election department while reporting the elections. Reiterating the guidelines issued by the Press Council of India in September 2010, he emphasised that all media, including newspapers, should not carry exaggerated reports about any candidate, party or incident during the elections.

Election campaign along communal or caste lines should be avoided and journalists should reject any inducement, financial or otherwise, to project a candidate.

Punjab Chief Electoral Officer Kusumjit Sidhu, Additional CEO Usha R. Sharma, and Joint CEO Gurkirat Kirpal Singh were among those present.