Majority favour making paid news electoral offence

Majority favour making paid news offence
New Delhi, Oct 5: A majority of respondents to a Law Commission consultation paper have supported making paid news an electoral offence, a suggestion advocated by Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath.

"On the question of whether to include paid news as an offence under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, all respondents but four of the 15 agreed that it should be made an offence...," an 'overview of the response' circulated by the Law Commission said.

The Law panel document said opinions varied on the type of offence, with a majority favouring an electoral offence under RP Act, while a few respondents arguing for a general offence. The response to the consultation paper was circulated ahead of the national consultations held by the panel last week on media laws.

Addressing the consultations here last Sunday, Chief Election Commissioner Sampath had said that paid news should be made an electoral offence that attracts disqualification so that it acts as a deterrent. He had also said when the Election Commission looked into whether it had the powers to deal with paid news it found the "answer was negative".

One response argued for two channels of prosecution for paid news to be made available -- the first as a corrupt practice under Section 123 of RP Act and the second as an electoral offence under Chapter IX A of the Indian Penal Code to allow longer timelines for investigation and more effective penalties.

There were a range of recommendations regarding the enforcement mechanisms that should be put in place to monitor and restrict the proliferation of paid news. One of the suggestions was to make political advertising free and be made available to candidates on a transparent and equal footing.

Seeking to remove any ambiguity, the Law Commission said, "No part of this document is intended to reflect the Law Commission's own views on the subject."


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