The EC has directed the Supreme Court on the issue of paid news by stating that, news articles where a political leader appeals for votes in his favour by boasting his record and achievements will fall under the category of ‘paid news’ and is to be severely condemned by the election commission.
The poll panel claimed that the high court of Delhi had wrongly restricted its role in taking action to curb the menace of paid news. The EC reverted the Delhi High Court verdict to disqualify Madhya Pradesh Minister Narottam Mishra for three years on the charge of paid news. It said that when a candidate is accountable for maintaining his poll expenses for the elections within the prescribed limit, the onus of establishing that beneficial services being rendered to him during the campaign period are not at his behest and would in turn rest on the individual candidate.
“Where there appears in daily newspapers having wide circulation, statements issued by and in the name of a candidate which are not only laudatory of his record and achievements but also are direct appeal to voters by the candidate himself, would it be erroneous for the Election Commission to treat such statements as not news, but paid-news?” said the EC in the appeal to the SC.
The commission also specifically mentioned in its statement that the conduct of eager supporters whose extensive coverage, is also frequently passed as ‘freedom of expression’ cannot be termed as news because the idea is expected to be “unbiased” and characterised by “dispassionateness of coverage and proportionate space to other contenders”.
“If ‘paid news’ can only be determined on the basis of irrefutable documentary evidence, the subterfuge would gain uncontrollable currency and would be a major setback to the effort to curb the practice of monetising the influence that candidates could wield due to their status and network in society, thus deriving an unfair advantage over other candidates,” read another portion.