The Press Council of India has had to close most of the complaints of paid news forwarded by the Election Commission for polls since the 2009 general elections because these were not pursued by the complainants. Of 58 complaints the press council has received for these elections,35 have been closed due to non-pursuance. Of 17 complaints that went into adjudication,seven resulted in the newspapers being censured and an apology ordered. These censure/apology orders came from a single adjudication on seven complaints. In all other instances of adjudication,the complaints were closed with the charges not established.
The press council had received these complaints from the Election Commission,before which election candidates and political parties had made representations during various elections. The council provided this information following an RTI request by The Indian Express with the Election Commission,which forwarded it.
The Election Commission had received these complaints from various poll candidates and their parties against Dainik Jagaran (9),Hindustan (5),Punjab Kesari (4),Dainik Bhaskar (3),Amar Ujala (2),Aaj (2),Nai Dunia (2),Sakshi (2),Tribune (1),The Hindu (1),The Times of India (1),Hindustan Times (1),Rashtriya Sahara (1),Prabhat Khabar (1),Hari Bhoomi (1),Rajasthan Patrika (1),Navbharat (1) and a few other publications.
The censure/apology order,on December 21 last year,was against Hindustan,Dainik Jagaran,Prabhat Khabar,Dainik Aaj,Rashtriya Sahara,Hindustan Times,Purvanchal Ki Rah and Udyog Vyapar Times.
In another complaint against Hindustan,the council ordered a censure last December but decided to rescind the order in March. In two complaints,the council said,Since the complainant is not present,the complaint deserves to be dismissed for default. Another was dismissed since the complainant had not been able to establish the charge he had levelled.
Among party candidates and leaders whose complaints were closed due to non-pursuance were Kunwar Manvendra Singh,Lion S Gopalan,Ramadhar Verma,Rakesh Sharma,Jai Singh,Nama Nageswara Rao ,Shailesh Nitin Trivedi,H S Bawa,Prem Prakash Thapaliyal,Clifton de Souza and Parvinder Singh Tyagi. Some complaints were also lodged by district electoral officers.
The Election Commission has issued seven guidelines since September 2009 relating to paid news. It has said it has also received complaints against some candidates of the SAD,the BJP,the Trinamool Congress,the Congress and the RJD and forwarded these to the state chief electoral officers for verification.
Complaints relating to paid news are being dealt with by district and state level media certification and monitoring committees (MCMCs). Only appeal to such paid news cases against the decision of state level MCMC are dealt with at the commission level, the EC said.