Citizens' Issues
Press Council Paid News report slams ex-state CM Ashok Chavan

Entity comes down heavily on media outlets and the prominent Maharashtra politician for media reports supporting him, and his challenge of the Election Commission pre-poll rules

The Delhi High Court has handed both the political circuit and the media a ticking time bomb with its judgment in the Ashok Chavan (former Maharashtra Chief Minister) case on ‘paid news’. The ex-CM had challenged the power of the Election Commission of India (ECI) to go into the truth (or falsity) of his 2009 poll expenses. Those proceedings in the ECI had gained infamy as the ‘paid news’ case.

The Press Council of India has released the report on Paid News (dated 30 July 2010) on its website, following the direction by the Delhi High Court. The report prepared under the chairmanship of Justice GR Ray (former head of the Press Council) has been placed in the public domain (more details at
Concerned over the serious dimensions acquired by the phenomenon of payment for news in the media in the General Elections 2009, the Council not only took cognizance of the matter suo moto, but also considered representations from various eminent persons. The report records that “Sections of the media in India have willy-nilly become participants and players in such practices that contribute to the growing use of money power in politics which undermines democratic processes and norms— while hypocritically pretending to occupy a high moral ground.”

The major observations of the report include:

(a) The election time ‘paid news’ phenomenon has three dimensions, which include:
1)    The reader or the viewer does not get a correct picture of the personality or performance of the candidate in whose favour (or against) he decides to cast his vote.
2)    Contesting candidates perhaps do not show it in their election expense account thereby violating the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, framed by the Election Commission of India under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
3)    Newspapers and television channels which received money in cash but did not disclose it in their official statements of accounts have violated the Companies Act, 1956, as well as the Income-Tax Act, 1961, besides other laws.

(b)    It was felt that there should be a clear distinction drawn between the managements and editorial staff in media companies and that the independence of the editor should be maintained and safeguarded.

(c ) The Election Commission of India should set up a special cell to receive complaints about ‘paid news’ in the run-up to the conduct of elections and initiate a process through which expeditious action could be taken on the basis of such complaints.

(d) There should be a debate among all concerned stakeholders on whether a directive of the Supreme Court of India that enjoins television channels to stop broadcasting campaign-related information on candidates and political parties 48 hours before elections take place, should be extended to the print medium since such a restriction does not apply to this section of the media at present.

The recommendations of the Council are as follows:

a) Representation of the People Act, 1951, be amended to make incidence of paid news a punishable electoral malpractice.
b) The Press Council of India must be fully empowered to adjudicate the complaints of ‘paid news’ and give final judgment in the matter.
c) The Press Council Act be amended to make its recommendations binding and electronic media be brought under its purview, and
d) Press Council of India should be reconstituted to include representatives from electronic and other media.

After the ‘paid news' scandal surfaced, the Press Council under Justice GN Ray set up a subcommittee to inquire into the racket. The committee comprising Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, senior journalist, and Sreenivas Reddy, produced an explosive 71-page report which clearly mentioned the names (and details) of the personalities who were involved in this racket.

However, the recommendation of the Press Council report were withheld from the public until an RTI (Right to Information) Application from journalist Manu Moudgil forced to Press Council to come out with all the relevant details by 10th October after an order from the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC).

Earlier, on Friday (7th October), the new chairman of the Press Council (who has taken over from Justice G N Ray), had said that “non-issues often get prominence in media.” Former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju had said that “real issues” get ignored in the media but ‘persuasion’ rather than ‘coercion’ is the method which he would favour.

Justice Katju said he had called informal meetings with senior journalists and would prefer an approach of consensus towards highlighting the right issues. Though the Press Council Act is confined to the print media, Justice Katju had said that he would hold discussions with the electronic media journalists as well.



Nagesh Kini FCA

6 years ago

"Paid news" ought to one of the concerns that ought to addressed in the Electoral Reforms. Civil Society or Sibil Society ought to accord top priority over even the Lok Pal Bill.

Supreme Court suspends Ajmal Kasab’s death sentence

The Supreme Court said that it would like to hear Mr Kasab’s plea challenging capital punishment at length as “due process of law” has to be followed, even though many feel that the appeal should be outrightly ‘rejected’

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday suspended the death sentence awarded to Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab in the 26/11 Mumbai attack case, saying that it would like to hear his plea challenging capital punishment at length as “due process of law” has to be followed, even though many feel that the appeal should be outrightly ‘rejected’, reports PTI.

While staying Mr Kasab’s death sentence and agreeing to deal with the appeal expeditiously, a special bench of justices Aftab Alam and CK Prasad also permitted him to amend his Special Leave Petition (SLP) and furnish additional grounds to challenge the sentence awarded to him by the special court and confirmed by the Bombay High Court.

While staying the execution, the bench also complimented senior counsel and amicus curie Raju Ramachandran for taking up the 2008 terror attack case and agreeing to assist the court.

“In our country many people are of the view that the appeal should be rejected (outrightly) and should not be heard at all but we are happy that you have decided to assist the court as amicus,” the bench told Mr Ramachandran.

It said it would like to hear the matter at length “as the rule of law is supreme in the country and the due process of law has to be observed”.

Agreeing with the bench’s view, former solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the Maharashtra government, said despite the magnitude of the terror attack, the due process of law has to be maintained and the matter needed to be dealt with expeditiously.

He submitted that all documentation and translation work relating to the trial court and the high court have been completed and as such the apex court may deal with the appeal in an expeditious manner.

The court agreed that it would deal with the appeal in an expeditious manner.

Mr Kasab, the sole convict in the case who has been lodged in Arthur Road prison in Mumbai, in the western Indian state Maharashtra, has moved the SLP through jail authorities. He has challenged his conviction and death sentence in the terror attack case. The apex court had appointed Mr Ramachandaran as amicus curie to assist it in deciding his appeal.

24-year-old Mr Kasab along with nine other Pakistani terrorists had landed at Budhwar Park in south Mumbai on 26th November2008 night from Karachi by sea and had gone on a shooting spree at various city landmarks, leaving 166 people dead and many more wounded.

While Mr Kasab was captured, the other terrorists in the group were killed during the attack. He was sentenced to death by a special anti-terror court on 6th May last year.

The Bombay High Court had in its 21st February verdict upheld the trial court order of death sentence to MR Kasab for the ‘brutal and diabolical’ attacks aimed at ‘destabilising’ the government.

Kasab’s death penalty was upheld on charges of criminal conspiracy, waging war against the nation and various other provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the anti-terror law—Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The high court had upheld Mr Kasab’s conviction on 19 counts under the IPC, Arms Act, Explosives Act, Explosive Substances Act, the Foreigners Act, the Passport Act and the Railway Act.


Andhra Bank launches prepaid gift, international travel cards

Andhra Bank gift cards in denominations between Rs250 and Rs50,000

Andhra Bank has launched prepaid gift and international travel cards. The prepaid gifts card is available in denominations between Rs250 and Rs50,000 and can be bought at no additional charge.

For gifts cards valued beyond Rs20,000 select Know Your Customer (KYC) norms would be applied.

Andhra Bank International Travel Card was also launched in varying denominations in US dollars.

A co-branded health card in association with India First Life Insurance Company Ltd (a life insurance joint of venture of Andhra Bank) was rolled out to access hassle-free claim settlement. All the cards were launched on MasterCard platform.


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