New Delhi: The
Election Commission received a staggering 766 complaints of paid
news during the January-March assembly elections, of which 253
were found to be true, the poll panel's former head S.Y. Quraishi
said here Friday.
Speaking at a seminar on "Challenges Facing the Media" at the
India International Centre here, Quraishi said notice had been
issued in 581 cases and in 253 cases the parties concerned
admitted to paying for certain news to be published. This amount
was then added to their poll expenses.
In the 2011 assembly polls, the Election Commission had taken
action in 250 cases, while in the 2010 Bihar polls, it had "caught
121 cases", he said.
"The parties confessed they had paid, and the money was accounted
for in their expenses," he added.
The former chief election commissioner said not many cases were
reported from Tamil Nadu and West Bengal as many political parties
had their own media outlets and used these for poll propaganda.
In the Representation of People Act, paid news has been made a
cognizable offence as it can be prejudicial and affect the
prospects of the candidate, he added.
Quraishi said political leaders have also spoken of how they are
approached by the media, demanding money in exchange for
publishing news in their favour.
"The political leaders say they are approached by the media and
told, 'Give me Rs.10 lakh and we will promote you, and if you
don't we will demolish you or blank you out.' During campaigning
for polls, the parties fall in line as they can't afford to be
blanked out," the former poll panel chief said. He added that
there was "total unanimity among political parties" on the
harassment due to this.
While exit polls are banned till the day of the results, Quraishi
called for opinion polls also to be banned in the run-up to the
polls, saying these are "manufactured".
He praised the media for being the "eyes and ears" of the poll
panel as the Election Commission took note of all the violations
of the model code of conduct highlighted by the media and took
While the media is very powerful, it also needs to exert more
self-control, he added.
Quraishi said the Election Commission was issuing new guidelines
on poll expenses, fixing the limit at Rs.16 lakh.