March 06, 2014
By- DEEPA M
Media Certification and Monitoring Committee-
The Election Commission (EC) has set up a committee to check the practice of paid news during Lok Sabha polls.
The Commission has appointed Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) at district and state-level, which will scrutinize all media within its jurisdiction to identify political advertisement in the garb of news.
Trends will be observed and reports will be compiled by the committee, which will give daily report on all advertising expenditure of a candidate, including suspected cases of paid news along with supportive documents.
Press Council of India also has well-drafted guidelines on the issue.
Paid news menace is virtually negligible in the north-eastern states, in states like Punjab, the number of cases in the previous polls were high.
Display of election matter in electronic media during 48 hours before the poll is restricted under Section 126B of the Representation of the People’s Act.
Publicity material to be released by political parties on social media would also be covered under the Act.
The contesting candidates would also have to submit the details of their accounts on social media while filing nominations.
If any other person has to carry out publicity campaign for a candidate or party on social media, in that case, such person would have to get an authorized certificate to this effect from such candidate or party.
Press Council of India- The Press Council of India is a statutory body in India that governs the conduct of the print media. It is one of the most important bodies that sustain democracy, as it has supreme power in regards to the media to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained.
The Press Council is headed by a Chairman: usually a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India (except for the first chairman, Justice J. R. Mudholkar, who was a sitting judge of Supreme Court of India in 1968). The Council consists of 28 other members of whom 20 represent the press and are nominated by the press organizations/news agencies recognized and notified by the Council as all India bodies of categories such as editors, working journalists and owners and managers of newspaper; 5 members are nominated from the two houses of Parliament and 3 represent cultural, literary and legal fields as nominees of the Sahitya Academy, University Grants Commission (U.G.C.) and the Bar Council of India. The members serve on the Council for a term of three years.
The Representation of the People’s Act- The Representation of People Act, 1951(RPA) is an act of Parliament of India to provide for the conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State, the qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses, the corrupt practices and other offences at or in connection with such elections and the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with such elections.
Model code of conduct- The Election Commission is regarded as guardian of free and fair elections.
In every election, it issues a Model code of Conduct for political parties and candidates to conduct elections in free and fair manner.
The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time. It lay down guidelines for conduct of political parties & candidates during elections. However, there are instances of violation of code by the political parties and complaints are received for misuse of official machinery by the candidates.
The need for such code is in the interest of free and fair elections. However, the code does not have any specific statutory basis. It has only a persuasive effect. It contains what, known as “rules of electoral morality”. But this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.
The Model Code of Conduct for guidance of political parties and candidates is a set of norms which has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code and also binds them to respect and observe it in its letter and spirit.
Role of Election Commission in the matter– The Election Commission ensures its observance by political party in power, including ruling parties at the Centre and in the States and contesting candidates in the discharge of its constitutional duties for conducting the free, fair and peaceful elections to the Parliament and the State Legislatures under Article 324 of the Constitution of India. It is also ensured that official machinery for the electoral purposes is not misused. Further, it is also ensured that electoral offences, malpractices and corrupt practices such as impersonation, bribing and inducement of voters, threat and intimidation to the voters are prevented by all means. In case of violation, appropriate measures are taken.
The Model Code of Conduct is enforced from the date of announcement of election schedule by the Election Commission and is operational till the processes of elections are completed.
The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc.