Andhra Pradesh tops the list for paid news menace with 208 cases, followed by Maharashtra with 118 cases. Madhya Pradesh is the last on the list with just nine cases of paid news so far
The Election Commission has so far detected 854 cases of ‘paid news' during the 45-day period since the general elections were announced on 5th March.
Out of the registered cases across various States, 326 instances have been found to be factual and notices have been served to candidates.
The maximum number of such cases of unethical reportage of news items has been reported in Andhra Pradesh with 208 cases being registered, out of which notices have been issued in 42 cases.
Figures for other states show that in Rajasthan there were 89 cases, out of which 37 notices have been issued.
In Uttar Pradesh, there were 98 cases and 64 notices were issued, while in Punjab 73 cases were detected and 41 notices issued.
According to officials, 61 cases were detected in Gujarat and 45 notices issued, while 118 cases were found in Maharashtra and 23 notices issued. In Karnataka, 34 cases were detected with 15 notices being issued and in Tamil Nadu, 41 cases were found with 8 notices being issued.
In Bihar, 10 cases have been detected till now with one notice being issued, while in Madhya Pradesh 9 cases were detected and 4 notices issued and in Odisha 15 cases were registered and six notices issued by the various state EC offices.
The EC has issued directives to all the state Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) to strictly deal with these cases and once a panel is formed to decide the veracity of these claims and it was found that the news items were ‘paid for’, the expenditure should be added to the total expenses of the candidate in question.
A whopping 74 lakh names went missing from voters’ list in Maharashtra, out of which around 4.5 lakh are from Pune over the past two years. Moneylife explored the route of retracing how one voter’s name was deleted without follwing any norm. Was this done deliberately?
Missing names of voters in the voter list during elections is not new. What is new this time is the exceptionally large number of deleted names. In Pune for example, the names of about 4.24 lakh voters’ have been deleted between 2013 and 2014 as per the documents put up on its website, www.ceo.mah.gov.in. That accounts for 25% names which have been deleted, and allegedly replaced by other ones.
As per the Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as well as the Representation of the People Act 1951, a citizen has the right to inspect documents in order to know the procedure that led to the deletion. Also specific procedure has been laid in the Representation of Peoples’ Act 1951.
When asked about the procedure in case the voter’s name has been deleted because he is shifted, Stella Paul, the election officer, who was checking out the documents of Sharad Phadke, which led to the deletion of his name, said, “the deletion process involves physical verification of the voter’s address, sending him or her a notice by physically pasting the notice on his front door; giving a public notice in the newspaper; seeking his suggestions and objections by conducting a hearing and if the person remains absent for the hearing, then the officer deletes the list.”
Quite clearly, the deletion route is not as simple as striking off a name in a jiffy.
Sharad Phadke and I, who had gone for inspection of files on Monday and Tuesday at the Mamledar Kacheri, that is the Tehsil’s office, which is the branch officer for the Election Commission for Kothrud Assembly Constituency. We asked for the following documents:
• Copies of the pages of the electoral voters list of 2012 which had the name and photograph of Mr Phadke and the list of 2013 from where his name has been deleted
• Copy of the note by the verification officer, stating that Phadke no more resides at the same address after physical verification by the election officer
• Copy of the notice sent to Phadke which was allegedly pasted by the election staffer on his front door
• Copy of the hearing in which it has been mentioned that Phadke remained absent for the hearing, with reference to the notice sent
• Copy of the public notice published in a newspaper, calling for suggestions and objections from voters who have been claimed to have shifted residence by the Election Office,in which Phadke’s name has appeared.
After four long hours of waiting patiently all through Monday and Tuesday until 6pm, the officials procured copies of the electoral voting list of 2012 in which Mr Phadke’s name appears with a photograph; the 2013 list sees his and his wife’s name deleted while his son’s and daughter-in-law’s names are intact because of which they could vote on 17th April.
However, Mr Phadke states, “no copy of the notice was pasted on the door of my house and I did not get any intimation of the hearing. They have not asked my neighbor about my whereabouts in case they have asked them during their physical verification of my address. Why didn’t they put the notice in my postal box outside my house if I am not available?”
Also, what’s shocking is the copy of the hearing contains no reference to the notice, which they allegedly sent to Mr Phadke. Every copy of hearing has a reference number for the notice that has been issued earlier because of which hearing was called. From the time, we asked for the various documents, the officials kept saying that they are searching for the copy of the newspaper in which the public notice has been issued. At the end of Tuesday they said that the public notice was not published as it was deleted during a special campaign for deletion of names from the voters’ list. Where is the rule which says that? There were vague answers to this query.
RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, who went through these documents says, “the copies of the documents show that no correct procedure was followed for the deletion of Mr Phadke’s name. In fact, the documents seem to have been 'created' for the justification of deleting his name.”
Another citizen, Girish Prabhu, whose name was deleted along with his mother’s had also put an application for inspection of files in the Kothrud Assembly’s election office, for documents, similar to what Mr Phadke has procured. The officers concerned have promised to give them but we have to follow it up.
In a couple of days, Mr Phadke would be filing a first informaiton report (FIR) with the police, which will be perhaps the first of its kind in the political history of India.
Phadke’s case is a indication that a huge conspiracy is behind the mass deletion of names and we are determined to follow up the issue. As per a Supreme Court judgement, the Election Registration Officer must go beyond the usually followed norms for re-election in case it is going to affect the electoral result. Irrespective of that, citizens of Pune who were over-enthusiastic to vote this time but could not due to some mysterious reasons of deletion of their names, must be given a chance.
Mr Kumbhar says, “Last week, I sent a letter to Election Commission of India asking them to communicate relevant information to voters. The Commission has put names of deleted voters from Maharashtra including Pune and it’s reasons on website. Though I had requested to put all the forms on website. Commission has only provided facility to search names of deleted persons. Voters can visit https://ceo.maharashtra.gov.in/ and search in “Deletion List PDFs Year  Year ” or Search Deletion List.'
In order to keep up the pressure, citizens are requested to file a complaint at the Election Office, 3rd floor, Old Zilla Parishad Office or Saraf Association office on Laxmi Road or Grahak Peth on Tilak Road. Citizens can get in touch with me on [email protected] if they would like to do file inspection for their name deletion.
• Pune loksabha constituency, Total number of voters name deleted in 2013 -2014 is 4,23,952 ( four lakh twenty three thousand nine hundred and fifty two)
• Total Number of voters names deleted in 2014 was 14.112 ( Fourteen thousand one hundred and twelwe )
Assembly constituency wise data of Pune Lok Sabha Constituency
|Assembly constituency||2013 deletion list||2014 deletion list|
|1||208 Vadgaon Sheri||52799||5182|
|5||214 Pune cantonment||72533||1661|
|6||215 kasba peth||83428||1275|
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
According to the PIL, glorification of politicians linked to the ruling establishment, in order to attain political mileage at the cost of public exchequer, is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution
The Supreme Court on Wednesday set up a committee to frame guidelines for preventing misuse of public funds by the Government and its authorities by issuing advertisements to get political mileage.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said that substantive guidelines are needed to regulate such advertisements at the cost of public exchequer. The apex court constituted a four-member committee comprising NR Madhava Menon, former director of Bhopal-based National Judicial Academy, TK Viswanathan, former secretary of the Lok Sabha, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar and Secretary of Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B).
The Bench asked the Committee to submit its report within three months.
The court passed the order on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Common Cause and Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), pleading it to frame guildelines.
The petition has sought issuance of guidelines for curbing ruling parties from taking political mileage by projecting their leaders in official advertisements.
Counsel, appearing for Common Cause, had earlier said that the glorification of politicians linked to the ruling establishment, in order to attain political mileage at the cost of public exchequer, was violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
Counsel, representing CPIL, had told the court that there was nothing wrong in issuing advertisements and informing the public about the programmes of the Government.
However, he had said such advertisement campaigns become arbitrary and malafide when aimed at gaining political mileage.