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Updated: June 7, 2012 11:28 IST

Reform champion Quraishi retiring, but ‘paid news' law still elusive

J. Balaji
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SEEKING ELECTORAL REFORMS: Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi. File Photo: V.V.Krishnan
SEEKING ELECTORAL REFORMS: Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi. File Photo: V.V.Krishnan

Then Law Minister Moily promised a Bill, and “we're still waiting”

The Election Commission, headed by reform-oriented CEC S.Y. Quraishi, is unhappy the government has not considered the changes it has been pushing for so many years, including declaring “paid news” a poll offence.

Mr. Quraishi, known for his voter-friendly reforms, is demitting office on June 10.

On February 3 last year, the EC suggested that publication and abetment of “paid news” for furthering the election prospects of any candidate or prejudicially affecting the chances of other contestants be made an offence under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, entailing imprisonment up to two years.

Moily's promise

The then Law and Justice Minister, M. Veerappa Moily, made a promise that a Bill in this regard would be tabled in Parliament. “But nothing happened and we are waiting still,” said an exasperated EC official.

In fact, the then Law Minister had visited Nirvachan Sadan at least thrice to hold discussions with officials on electoral reforms, but nothing came of it.

The amendment to the RP Act, as proposed by the EC, would serve as a deterrent at least to some extent as there were no legislation at present to pull up “corrupt journalists” or punish “corruption by media in the form of publishing news against money,” the official said.

This was all the more important as the EC had a few months ago disposed of the first complaint of encouragement of ‘paid news' made against the then Rashtriya Parivartan Dal MLA (from Bisauli), Umlesh Yadav, disqualifying her for three years for not including the actual expenditure on newspaper publicity in her poll expenses account. Even in this case, the media which encouraged ‘paid news' and benefited from the candidate was not punished, the official said.

Official sources pointed out that right now the EC did not have powers or jurisdiction to haul up newspapers and other media organisations for benefiting from ‘paid news' though complaints had been pending before it against the former Chief Ministers Ashok Chavan (Maharashtra) and Madhu Koda (Jharkhand).

In the Umlesh Yadav case, the Press Council of India's opinion formed the basis for the EC to arrive at the conclusion that the candidate indeed gave advertisements and did not account for the same in her expenses.

The PCI said: “The format of impugned material was such that it would appear as a news report to the layman and the word ADVT printed at the lowest end rather appeared to accompany a small boxed appeal by the candidate. There was beyond doubt a possibility of confusing the voters when the elections were just a day away and all campaigning had stopped. The act was not only unethical by journalistic standards but also in violation of the election laws.”

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Why is a special law required against Paid News? Is it not a clear case of cheating and corruption? Do such journalists (or publications) show such income in their returns? Demanding a law for Paid News is just an excuse for non action. Sufficient laws exist within the existing framework. If only the authorities are sincere enough to take action.

from:  Chan
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 20:06 IST

Our Political System is making rules and bringing laws to protect
the Politicians from a mask called Fraud and Corruption. Even the
Independent System like EC doesn't have strict powers to take
charge against some issues happening during Elections.

from:  Divya
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 13:59 IST

Goodbye Mr. Quiraishi, thank you for your service.

from:  Navein
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 11:33 IST

The retiring CEC S.Y. Quraishi leaves behind him the image of an effective, reformist Chief election commissioner. But, unfortunately, Government is not matching the initiative level of the election commissioner. The pad news issue is just one of the reforms needed. The most important of course, is the RIGHT TO REJECT. The sooner these reforms come, the better will be the Poll outcomes in India.

from:  V.VIJAYAMOHAN
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 10:57 IST

Its very true that making systematic changes against the will of
political class is simple not possible in a country like India. CEC's
crusade against paid-news, election reforms couldn't change much. Hope
to see some changes in next CEC's tenure.

from:  sanjay
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 10:42 IST

I personally feel "Paid news" is playing a big role in the country politics . Paid news can be said as the easier side of the campaigning of the respective parties. But the news given in the news papers by the respective parties should be in such a manner that it only discusses the manifesto of the respective party and how they are going to serve the people or served the people e.t.c rather than criticizing the opponent parties. If done so I personally feel paid news is a good idea.Thank you.

from:  Neha
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 10:24 IST

we are privileged to have him as our EC.i would like to mention the
reforms which are friendly for the voters to apply for voter cards
through online and also mass campaigning about importance of vote in
elections.I appreciate the idea of RP act which is required in present
situation taking into fact of the black money and corrupt politicians.it
helps to curtail them atleast for protecting the interests of citizens
in choosing their leader of interest.

from:  krishna santosh pujari
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 10:18 IST

This corrupt government doesn't have the spine to act in any matter which would endager their position.
I would congratulate Mr S.Y Quraishi of coming out and giving his stand on the issue without any fear,we need more people like you in the administration.

from:  sreejith
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 10:16 IST
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