New Delhi: Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday (20.10.2011) disqualified Umlesh Yadav as a legislator of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly for resorting to â€œPaid Newsâ€™, something which she did not disclose as part of her election expenses.
The commission also debarred her from contesting any election under section 10A of the Representation of People Act 1951 for a period of three years.
Yadav has become the first lawmaker in the country whose election has been disqualified for resorting to paid news.
The Election Commission took cognizance of a complaint by losing candidate Yogendra Kumar before the Press Council of India PCI that the winning candidate had resorted to paid news before the poll.
The PCI, after conducting due enquiry, forwarded a copy of their adjudication order dated 31st March 2010, to the Election Commission with the observations:
â€œThe Council on perusal of record and the report of the Inquiry Committee held the respondent newspapers Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran guilty of ethical violations and adopting the observations of the Inquiry committee, it cautioned the media to refrain from publishing news masquerading as advertisements and vice versa. It also decided that adjudication along with all the case papers may be sent to the Election Commission of India for such action as deemed fit by them.â€
However, the newspapers denied that there were any instances of paid news, but the word ADVT had been boldly added to the bottom of these articles.
Not satisfied with the newspapers response, â€œthe Commission, on the basis of documents made available by the PCI, agreed that the publication in â€˜Amar Ujalaâ€™, dated 17/04/2007 captioned, â€œCharon oar Patang Hi Patang Haiâ€and the publication in Dainik Jagran, dated 17/04/2007 captioned, â€œBisauli Ke Chunvavi Aasman Par Patang hi Patangâ€ are cases of â€˜Paid Newsâ€™.
On seeking the election expenditure from Yadav, she in response to an ECI notice denied that the articles published in the said newspaper were not ordered by her and no amount had been spent for publication of the said advertisements. Reflecting any amount, as such, in her election expenses account did not arise.
However when the editors of the newspapers involved were asked to explain, Amar Ujala produced two receipts, one of Rs 8000 dated 14.4.2007 and the other of Rs 19,550 dated 20.4.2007 that had been paid by DP Yadav and Danik Jagran produced a receipt for Rs 21,250 dated 17.4.2007 that was paid on behalf of DP Yadav, who happened to the president of a regional party of which Umlesh Yadav was an candidate.
The commission noted â€œPertinent to point out here that the newspaper (Dainik Jagran) in their statement before the Press Council of India stated that the material for publication of the â€œpaid newsâ€ under reference was got written by the candidate and not by their correspondent.
The commission members noted that by suppressing expenditure on â€˜paid newsâ€™ and filing an incorrect or false account, the candidate involved is guilty of not merely circumventing the law relating to election expenses but also of resorting of false propaganda by projecting a wrong picture and defrauding the electorate.
The Press Council of India has rightly observed in its adjudication order in the present case that â€˜The format of the impugned material was such that it would appear as a news report to the layman and word ADVT printed at the lowest end rather appeared to accompany a small boxed Appeal by the candidate. There was beyond doubt a possibility of confusing the voters when the elections were just a day away and all campaigning has stopped.â€™
Finding a discrepancy about not maintaining proper election expenditure and understating expenses in filings before the commission, the members SY Qureishi, VS Sampath and HS Brahma observed â€œ Umlesh Yadav did not maintain a correct and true account of her election expenditure under section 77 in connection with her election to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly from 24-Bisuali Assembly Constituency held in April, 2007 and by filing such incorrect account of her election expenses with the District Election Officer, Badayun on 8th June, 2007 under section 78, she failed to lodge her account of election expenditure in the manner required by law within the meaning of section 10A of the said Act.â€
The commissioners decreed, accordingly, “the Election Commission has no option but to declare her disqualified” and debarred her from contesting an election for another three years.