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Pay to publish: making paid news an electoral offence

An M.P. Minister’s disqualification underlines need to make paid news an electoral offence

The Election Commission’s order disqualifying Madhya Pradesh Minister Narottam Mishra for three years is an important step in curbing ‘paid news’ in the electoral arena. It is not the first such order. An Uttar Pradesh MLA, Umlesh Yadav, was disqualified in 2011 on the same ground, of suppressing expenditure incurred in the publication of paid news. The EC has called paid news, a term that refers to propaganda in favour of a candidate masquerading as news reports or articles, a “grave electoral malpractice” on the part of candidates to circumvent expenditure limits. In a typical inquiry into the paid news phenomenon, the newspaper or publication concerned denies that it was paid for publishing the material and insists that it was part of its normal election coverage. The candidate denies authorising the publication and takes the plea that he or she could not possibly account for something that was not paid for. Mr. Mishra was no exception. He, in fact, argued that his rivals could be behind the 42 reports that the EC’s National Level Committee on Paid News found to be nothing but election advertisements, without any disclaimer. However, the EC did not buy his arguments, mainly because it was difficult to believe that he had not seen reports that appeared in his Datia constituency during the campaign for the 2008 Assembly elections, often with his picture and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s symbol. Many of these reports carried identical words, and in some there was a direct appeal for votes on his behalf.

Paid news is not an electoral offence yet, but there is a case to make it one. The EC has recommended to the government that the Representation of the People Act, 1951, be amended to make the publishing, or abetting the publishing, of paid news to further a candidate’s prospects or prejudicially affect another’s an electoral offence. Until this is done, contestants who use paid news can only be hauled up for failing to include the expenses involved in their campaign accounts. In Mr. Mishra’s case, the EC has taken the view that even if it were true that he made no payment, he ought to have included a notional amount in his accounts. Also, candidates cannot simply claim that these reports were not authorised by them. As long as the intention to boost someone’s prospects was clear, and there was no objection from the candidate, the EC can rule that there was ‘implied authorisation’. Mr. Mishra’s case pertains to the 2008 election, and by the time the Commission has given its verdict he is into his next term, having been re-elected in 2013. It is difficult not to notice that the enormous delay in adjudicating such questions is often created by candidates approaching the courts to stall inquiries. A legal framework in which electoral issues are expeditiously adjudicated must also be put in place if election law is to be enforced in both letter and spirit. Source : THE HINDU

IMPORTANT WORDS FROM ARTICLE & THEIR MEANING


1) Adjudicate (निर्णय करना )  (verb) -  ad-ju-di-keytMeaning - to make a decision on an issue ,  give/declare a verdict (on a disputed matter).
Synonyms 
- Judge , decide , umpire,
Antonyms - Ignore , adjurn , avoid
Example -
 In a national criminal case, the federal authorities are the ones who adjudicate the charges.
2) Masquerade ( स्वाँग रचना ,छद्मवेश ) (verb) - mas-ker-eydMeaning - to assume a false identity
Synonyms 
- disguise , pretend , mask
Antonyms - reveal , display , unmask
Example -
 In front of the media, the crooked politician will masqueradeas a decent human being.
3) Abet (उकसाना )(verb) - a-betMeaning -  Encourage or assist (someone) to do something wrong, 
Synonyms -
Support , promote , help
Antonyms - Obstruct , discourage , hinder
Example -
 If you abet violence in your home, you should not be surprised if your children grow up to be abusers.
4) Notional (अनुमानित ,काल्पनिक ) (adjective)-noh-shun-nlMeaning - a person or thing that comes before somebody/something similar and that leads to its development , Indication (noun)
Synonyms 
- Imaginary , fanciful , hypothetical
Antonyms - Real , existing , actual
Example - 
In mathematics , before calculating the actual value , we assign the terms a notional value.
5)Circumvent ( दरकिनार)  (verb) - cir-cum-ventMeaning - Overcome (a problem or difficulty) in a clever and surreptitious way ,to get around something 
Synonyms -
Avoid , bypass , escape
Antonyms -
confront , allow , permit
Example - 
If we do not find a way to circumvent this problem, we will not be able to finish the project.
6)Prejudicially (प्रतिकूल) (adverb)  - prej-u-di-cial-lyMeaning - Harmful to someone or something
Synonyms -
 detrimentally , adversly , disadvntageously
Antonyms - Goodly , helpfully , positively
Example -
 At this stage Denmark's foreign relations prejudicially affected its domestic politics.
7) Stall (बाधा डालना) (verb) -stawlMeaning - to stop or prevent progress or advancement
Synonyms - obstruct , stop , hinder
Antonyms - proceed , allow
Example -
The whole point of a red light is to stall the flow of traffic by stopping all of the cars coming its way.
8) Expeditiously (शीघ्र) (adverb) -  ex-pe-di-tious-lyMeaning - with speed and efficiency.
Synonyms - 
quickly , swiftly , promptly
Antonyms - inefficiently ,exhaustively , delayed
Example - 
The patients  needing urgent surgery are taken care of expeditiously.
9) Plea (दलील) (noun) Meaning - a request made in an urgent and emotional manner.
Synonyms - 
Appeal , request , justification , excuse
Antonyms- 
Instruction , charge , command
Example - 
The judge permitted the plea of the petitioner.
10) succinct(adjective) (सारगर्भित) -  suc-cinctMeaning - expressed in a clear but brief manner
Synonyms -  concise , compact , short
Antonyms - lengthy , redundant , detailed
Example (English) -The instructor of the programme asked, “Would you try to keep all the major ideas and make the text more succinct”?
Example (Hindi) - कार्यक्रम के अनुदेशक ने पूछा, “क्या आप सभी मुख्य विचारों को शामिल करने का प्रयास करते हुए पाठ को और अधिक सारगर्भित बनाएंगे”?

Now considering the article above as a Reading Comprehension question, try to answer the following -
  • What is referred as a “grave electoral malpractice” by the author?
  • What is 'implied authorisation' acording to Election Commission ?
Given below are some words to check your vocabulary you can make sentences with those words in the comment section which will be reviewed by us.
  • Propaganda 
  • Haul
  • Curb
  • Malpractice
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