Paid news very disturbing trend, says election commissioner

Concerned over the phenomenon of "paid news" at the time of voting, Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi said Wednesday that the poll panel was in touch with media regulatory bodies to curb the malpractice.

"Paid news is very disturbing," Quraishi said, delivering a lecture on "Sixty years of Election Commission", at the India International Centre here.        

He said the poll panel was in touch with the Press Council of India and Editors Guild of India to curb the  new trend.          

The lecture was followed by an interactive session chaired by veteran journalist B.G. Verghese.         

Quraishi also said the procedure of removal of election commissioners should be the same as Chief Election Commissioner as they had similar powers.         

"There should be equality in the context of removal also," Quraishi said, referring to the controversy over the recommendation made by former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami last year to remove then election commissioner Navin Chawla.        

Under the present provisions, the poll panel chief can recommend removal of an election commissioner to the government.        

Quraishi said the use of money power in politics, criminalisation of elections, lack of faith in state police and urban apathy were among the issues of concern for the poll panel.        

He did not see compulsory voting as a remedy to voter apathy.        

He said 30 crore people did not vote in the last elections and making voting mandatory could lead to complications.        

Quraishi said awareness should be created in such a way that those who do not vote feel embarrassed about it.        

Without mentioning Gujarat where voting has been made compulsory in the local body elections, Quraishi said the poll panel would like to see how it works. "Any reform is better than no reform."        

He said the poll panel should have powers to deregister a political party as many of the registered parties had been found to be fake in surveys and media reports.        

The election commissioner said there was a plan to create an expenditure monitoring division to check practices of candidates using proxies to keep their expense within limits.        

He said that false declaration in connection with an election should be made an offence by amending the law.        

He also supported the idea of a common electoral roll for the national and local elections, saying the poll panel was moving in that direction.         

Quraishi said that the panel would introduce bio-metric identification to curb the practice of fraud voting.        

–Indo-Asian News Service

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