The Supreme Court on Monday said that the Election Commission was empowered to inquire into the allegation of paid news if the expenses for the same are not being reflected in the election return filed by the candidate.
The apex court bench of Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla said this while dismissing a plea by former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.
Having held that the Commission can inquire into the allegation, the court dismissed the plea by Mr. Chavan, who had challenged the Delhi High Court order, holding that the commission can inquire into the allegations of paid news if same was not disclosed by the candidate in his election expenses returns.
The court said that the Commission will hold day-to-day hearing and decide the complaint in 45 days.
Mr. Chavan, in 2009 Assembly election had won from Bhokar seat in Nanded. His opponent, independent candidate Madhav Kinhalkar, filed a complaint with the Election Commission, accusing him of hiding expenses on a ‘paid’ supplement titled Ashok Parva (The era of Ashok) in a leading Marathi daily.
Mr. Chavan and the daily’s management denied the allegation saying that the supplement was not a paid one.
The Election Commission probed into Mr. Kinhalkar’s allegations. The Delhi High Court in 2010 declined Mr. Chavan’s plea seeking the stay of the Election Commission proceedings. He then moved the apex court in November 2011.