Recognising the malaise of paid news, the Election Commission has proposed to the government to make it an electoral offence even as it continues to tackle it itself by monitoring the expenditure of candidates.
Addressing a press conference here to announce the Lok Sabha poll schedule, Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath said paid news has three aspects — print media, electronic media and expenditure by candidates. “Since there is no law, we have made a proposal to the Law Ministry to make it an electoral offence,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said, the Election Commission deals with the malaise by keeping a close watch on the expenditures of the candidates.
“The Election Commission is doing what is under its control. We have been monitoring committees in districts and states. We add the expenditure to the expenditure account of the candidate concerned,” Sampath said.
With regard to complaints about paid news in print media, he said the cases were referred to the Press Council of India. As far as complaints regarding paid news in electronic media are concerned, such cases are referred to the National Broadcasters Association (NBA), he said.
To a question regarding demands for banning opinion polls, the CEC said it was for Parliament to decide.
“We never hesitate to use powers that we can. However, the issue of opinion polls is to be dealt with by the lawmakers. They have the legislative competence,” he added.
The issue of banning opinion polls has been hanging fire since 2004.
The Chief Election Commissioner said a proposal to ban opinion polls was made in 2004 but only exit polls were banned.
Existing law allows EC to ban opinion polls just 48 hours prior to voting.
The poll panel has proposed that there should be a prohibition on publication and broadcast of the results of opinion polls starting from the date of notification of elections till the completion of the last phase of polls to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati, whose view was sought by the Law Ministry, has supported this proposal.
On ‘False’ Promises
Taking note of the Election Commission’s decision to prevent political parties from making “unimplementable” poll promises, state Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev on Wednesday said a committee had been formed to keep an eye on parties and leaders making such false promises. “If anyone, be it a political party or politician, is found making any false election promises, they would be booked for violation of the model code of conduct,” Dev said.
The committee comprises three members who will interact with nodal poll officers. “They will check the political parties’ manifestos and try to attend rallies where these unimplementable promises can be announced,” said the officer.
After the Election Commission announced April 10 Parliamentary elections in the city, the state election commission has stepped up its efforts to ensure maximum voter turnout.
According to Dev, till January 1, 28,424 new voters had enrolled in the electoral list after the Assembly elections. The last day for enrolment is March 12.
“There are 66, 84,476 male voters and 53, 76,017 female voters, including 638 others (eunuchs). We will launch an extensive media campaign to invite maximum applications for new enrolments,” said Dev, adding that getting voter card alone didn’t guarantee the right to cast votes.
Dev said the commission would launch a special programme at select polling booths on March 9. Officials would collect forms from new voters and manually check their names against those in the electoral roll. The list of such booths would be made public before March 8. To help differently-abled voters, it has initiated a sensitisation programme for staff. “We will ensure that every differently-abled person is being helped cast his or her vote,” Dev said.
The panel will depute more than 85,000 civil officials and as much security personnel, including 35,000 Delhi cops. “We have launched our training programme for officials. It is not an uphill task for us as we have recently conducted the Assembly polls,” he added.