The State Election Commission will view very seriously reports of paid news and initiate criminal action against those who resort to the abhorrent practice, S. Ayyar, chief of the SEC, said on Thursday.
“It is a corrupt practice as it amounts to bribing newspapers and journalists. It also seeks to influence the minds of voters in a misleading manner,” Dr. Ayyar told TheHindu on Thursday.
Action could be taken under the Representation of the People Act, 1950, he added.
Pointing out that the Commission had not so far received any such complaint, the SEC chief said that if anyone wanted to bring to the notice of the Commission, the identity of the complainant would be kept confidential.
Asked how the Commission was monitoring expenses of candidates in the local bodies' polls, Dr. Ayyar replied that at every district headquarters, candidates had to furnish their accounts to Personal Assistant (Accounts) to District Collector. Reports were being received from district-wise observers apart from videographing important visits of political leaders and meetings.
To a query whether local papers were being scanned for the purpose of identifying instances of paid news, he said that many dailies, especially in Tamil, were functioning as organs of one political party or the other.
On the practice of auction of posts of village panchayat presidents, Dr. Ayyar said the Commission had already issued strict instructions to curb it. So far, 60 persons had been arrested and a majority of them were from the Madurai district.
On Wednesday night, the Commission ordered the transfer of Deputy Superintendents of Police for Sirkazhi and Vedaranyam on the basis of reports from the Nagapattinam district observer that their functioning was not satisfactory. New officers had been posted.
Dr. Ayyar added that all district observers had been advised to follow closely all events related to local bodies' polls and instances of violation of the model code of conduct.