Paid news pandemic undermines democracy


May 10, 2013

P. Sainath, The Hindu

Top civil society bodies are challenging the government’s ‘counter-affidavit’ in the Paid News case which seeks to gut the Election Commission’s powers

In a major twist to the Ashok Chavan vs. Madhav Kinhalkar legal battle (more notorious as the “Paid News” scandal), leading civil society organisations and eminent individuals have approached the Supreme Court to implead themselves into the case.

Their intervention application, moved by advocate Prashant Bhushan, minces no words on their reasons for doing so. They are disturbed by “the stranglehold of money power on our electoral politics.” And by a recent move of the Union Law Ministry which could destroy the Election Commission of India’s power to disqualify candidates filing incorrect or false accounts.

The applicants for intervention hope to defeat “the nefarious design” of the Union government which seeks to “undo all the good work done by the Election Commission of India.” And which further seeks, to “unsettle the law already settled” by the Supreme Court of India. They wish to ensure that the ECI “retains the plenitude of its power and authority to safeguard the purity and integrity of the electoral process.” Which includes holding candidates to account on poll expenses.

This action follows the Union Law Ministry filing a counter-affidavit on behalf of the Government in the Ashok Chavan case. That affidavit, first reported by The Hindu on March 20, asserts that “the power of the Election Commission to disqualify a person arises only in the event of failure to lodge an account of expenses and not for any other reason, including the correctness or otherwise of such accounts.” Simply put: the government claims the ECI has no right to disqualify a candidate even if his accounts are found to be improper or fraudulent. If accepted, this would virtually gut the powers of that Constitutional body. (However, the Court is yet to give any ruling on the matter.)

Those seeking to intervene include Common Cause, a public interest body. Its legal activism on electoral matters had a role in the Supreme Court’s ordering that political parties had to file regular returns of income or invite possible penal action. Also in the line-up is the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a group at the forefront of many battles for electoral and political reforms. Vital among those, a public interest litigation (PIL) of ADR in 1999, which later saw the Supreme Court order candidates to disclose their criminal, financial and educational background prior to the polls.

That is, by filing an affidavit with the ECI. Common Cause and ADR are joined by five other civil society bodies in this application.

The line-up of distinguished individuals includes veteran journalist and editor B.G. Verghese, former Chief Election Commissioners of India (CEC) N. Gopalaswami and J.M. Lyngdoh, and former adviser to the ECI, K.J. Rao.

The immediate beneficiary of the UPA government’s attack on the ECI’s powers is the disgraced ex-chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan. As former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami has pointed out: “The government has joined Mr. Chavan in challenging the Election Commission’s power to disqualify a candidate under Section 10A of the Act for his failure to submit a correct and true rendering of his election expenditure” (The Hindu, April 17, 2013). The former CEC clearly sums up the impulse for civil society action: “The case before the Supreme Court is no longer one of Dr. Kinhalkar and others vs Ashok Chavan. It concerns every individual and institution that is uneasy about and opposed to the sway of money power in elections.” — See “Doublespeak on electoral reforms, April 17, 2013, The Hinduthne.ws/gopalaswami

Mr. Chavan not only lost his post in the fallout of the Adarsh scam, but also earned notoriety in the “Paid News scandal,” a story broken by The Hindu(See: “Is the ‘Era of Ashok’ a new era for ‘news’”, thne.ws/era-of-ashok, November 29, 2009).

Destructive

The applicants for intervention in the case note there is “a growing concern that the pandemic of Paid News is eating into the vitals of our democratic polity by compromising the purity of the elections and destroying the credibility of the print/electronic media.” They cite the case of Umlesh Yadav, MLA from Uttar Pradesh, who was disqualified by the ECI for three years. Ms Yadav had failed “to account for an expenditure of Rs. 21,250 on an advertisement that had appeared in the disguise of a news item in the Dainik Jagran,” of April 17, 2007.

They note that “Umlesh Yadav pales into insignificance in comparison to the media blitzkrieg” launched in support of Ashok Chavan’s 2009 Assembly election campaign. And that the Government of India which had ostensibly taken a strong public position on Paid News and praised the ECI’s efforts to curb it, “has filed a counter affidavit which reveals its true colours.”

The Election Commission is also likely to file an affidavit opposing the government’s pro-Chavan counter-affidavit.

psainath@mtnl.net.in

 

Use of #Aadhaar card in Voting in Karnataka Assembly Elections #UID


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

MOST URGENT

By E-mail including to the media

Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)                                                                     475, 7th Main Road

                                                                                                                         Vijayanagar 1st Stage

E-mail:<sg9kere@live.com>                                                                          Mysore-570017

Tel:0821-2515187                                                                                            April 19, 2013

To

 

Election Commission of India

Nirvachan Sadan

Ashoka Road

New Delhi-110001

 

Subject: USE OF AADHAAR CARD FOR VOTING IN THE FORTHCOMING MAY 2013 KARNATAKA ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS

Sirs,

1. According to media reports concerning the forthcoming elections in Karnataka, voters who do not present their Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) at Polling Booths, may use their Aadhaar card as identification for casting their votes. This is apparently a change in policy at the level of the Election Commission of India (ECI).

2. The ECI are requested to note that the instructions printed on the Aadhaar card read as follows:

# Aadhaar is proof of identity, not of citizenship. # To establish identity, authenticate on-line.

3. These instructions read together, indicate that the Aadhaar card bearer’s identity can only be established when it is authenticated on-line by verification of the biometric parameters of fingerprints and iris scans from UIDAI’s records. Therefore, for this purpose, the ECI would need to arrange for and ensure operation of fingerprint detection and iris scan devices connected on-line to UIDAI’s Central ID Data Repository at every polling booth (with standby power supply), for on-line authentication of identity of voters who do not possess the EPIC.

4. If however the Aadhaar card is proposed to be accepted at the polling booth as identification without on-line authentication, then the ECI may consider accepting other documents like Ration Card, Passport or Motor Vehicle Driving Licence, all of which contain as much information as an Aadhaar card, for a Polling Booth Officer to identify the voter. Notwithstanding, the use of Aadhaar card without on-line authentication of identity at polling booths would be misuse of the Aadhaar system and perversion of the election process, since Aadhaar is not proof of citizenship, as stated on the Aadhaar card itself.

5. The ECI are requested to note that waiver of the necessity for EPIC for voting in the May 2013 Karnataka Assembly elections may result in similar waiver being demanded for other elections in the future, thus effectively making the EPIC itself redundant.

6. In view of the foregoing, the ECI are urgently requested to make public announcement to state whether or not facilities for Aadhaar on-line authentication will be provided at polling booths for the May 2013 Karnataka Assembly elections.

 

Yours faithfully,

Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)

Copy to:

The Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka <feedbackceokar@gmail.com>

Nirvachana Nilaya, Maharani’s College Circle <ceo.karnataka@gmail.com>

Seshadri Road

Bangalore-560001

 

 

Koodankulam: THE HINDU’s Bias Stands Exposed #Censorship #Medua


 

newspapers-biasWhile the THE HINDU newspaper gave 2 full pages for Dr. Abdul Kalam’s justification of the Koodankulam project, it maintained a complete silence on the revelation about vulnerability of equipments in Koodankulam and the corruption of the Russian supplier, despite the issue being flagged by the former chief of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Dr. A Gopalakrishnan himself.Below is an email conversation between Shri M G Devasahayam, the former IAS and Convener of the independent expert committee on Koodankulam and A S Paneerselvam, the Readers’ Editor of THE HINDU. This conversation happened in the context of a recent column by Mr. Paneerselvam titled From Cynicism to Trust.

The response by the Readers’ Editor reveals the self-righteousness of this prominent media house and the newspaper’s bias. Here is the full correspondence:

Mr. Devasahayam’s Letter to Mr. Paneerselvam: April 12, 2013

To,
The Readers’ Editor
THE HINDU

I have been a regular and avid Reader of THE HINDU for several decades and therefore has a right and duty to write this letter that has specific reference to what you wrote in your column ‘From cynicism to trust’ on 08 April 2013.

Suggesting that the Newspaper is ‘Living its Values’ just because it did not endorse statements by some advertisers is indeed far fetched after carrying the advertisements itself on full front-page, which is a commercial practise in violation of editorial ‘values and codes’.

Furthermore, giving huge news and edit-page space almost every day to one individual just because he is in a position of power is certainly not maintaining high editorial standards, particularly so because most of these appear to be egotistic, highly opinionated and loaded with hypocrisy. For instance yesterday’s (09 April) edit-page promotional article on a borrowed idea from US for setting up ‘Court of the Last Resort’ is harebrained to say the least written by an elite arm-chair critic who has no relationship with ground realities and has always sat on a pedestal having no concern for the pathetic victims of the heartless justice system till this worthy was upbraided for suo motto pleading for the pardon of highly-connected, super-rich Sanjay Dutt who actually was given a mild punishment compared to the offences he had committed.

While on the subject I would like to state that in the run up to the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections in 2011 some of us including two former Chief Election Commissioners, Chief Electoral Officers, senior civil servants, advocates and activists had initiated and pursued a movement for Electoral Integrity with the purpose of reining in money-muscle power in elections and went to grass-root levels addressing hall meetings and large groups of students in colleges. We also worked closely with Election Commission of India. Your Newspaper hardly took notice of it except for some odd reports that too emanating from the mofussil towns. We want to revive it now for the forthcoming Parliament elections, but are not sure of any media support for this initiative that can combat the ‘mother of all corruption’. I don’t think THE HINDU will even consider publishing an edit-page article on this subject if I write it!

Much more than publishing self-conceited opinions, what is important for the Readers is fair and unbiased understanding of burning current issues. In this I am afraid THE HINDU is wanting. There are severe flaws in the impartial / unbiased / objective reporting of current issues as well as selecting and publishing edit-page and op-ed articles. The Newspaper is also exhibiting reluctance in reporting mal-governance in Tamil Nadu while writing about these from other parts of the country. THE HINDU has also not observed the core values of fairness and impartiality in reporting on issues that vitally affect the sentiment, honour, life and livelihood of vast sections of the Tamil People who have been nurturing and sustaining the Newspaper for over a century. Though there are many I will confine myself to just three instances:

1. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant: Coverage by the Newspaper of the long people’s struggle against KKNPP, which is being suppressed and oppressed through draconian measures like sedition/treason laws, Goondas Act, curfew, lathi-charge and tear-gas has been perfunctory and heavily loaded in favour of the state despite the fact that all environmental and safety norms and rules have been blatantly violated in the setting up of the plant and presently there are huge safety issues involved in the desperate attempts by the nuclear establishment to commission the plant through bluff and bluster.

Hearing a Special Leave Petition on this issue, Supreme Court in October/November 2012 had made a pointed observation: “We are concerned more about people’s safety than the money spent on the project.” As if to reinforce this concern Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, doyen of India’s nuclear establishment and former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has categorically stated that the plant is not safe because sub-standard material has been used in the construction of the nuclear reactor itself and many critical types of equipment are suspect. He strongly demanded an immediate investigation by an independent experts group into the safety of KKNPP as it was Podolsk, the Russian company whose CEO was arrested for corruption, that had supplied the components for the reactor. He also said that China, where similar equipments have been supplied has already started inspecting the quality of its nuclear reactors and India too should do so without delay. This and many other things he said at a press interaction in this very city on 06 April 2013.

From what Dr. Gopalakrishnan said, as a corruption and non-transparency scandal nuclear-power in general and KKNPP in particular are far bigger and more serious than that of CWG, 2G Spectrum, Coalgate or Augusta Westland because it has direct and serious bearing on the life, safety and livelihood of millions of people. Yet THE HINDU completely blacked out this very important news event that happened right in Chennai and instead gave space to irrelevant and banal issues. This has deprived the public of getting to know an expert view on this vital matter that could have helped them to arrive at an informed opinion. This has violated the basic editorial code of the ‘right of the readers to know differing views’!

On the other hand the insincere assurances given by the Prime Minister to the President of a foreign country, vague and empty words repeatedly spoken by Mr. Narayanaswamy, and evasive statements made by NPCIL/AEC/AERB officials are given huge importance. Recently the sales-pitch made by a Russian engineer Y N Dudkin that ‘Kudankulam reactors are safest in the world’ was given fulsome and prominent coverage as if it was ‘Gospel truth’. So were all the earlier articles written (one more than half-page) and statements issued by the nuclear-illiterate APJ Abdul Kalam. Is this the kind of ‘independence’ the Newspaper boasts of?

On this burning issue that has been suppressed by your Newspaper you may read these Links:

2. Sri Lankan Tamils Issue: The anti-Sri Lankan Tamil stance taken by THE HINDU is so well known and talked about with revulsion that nothing more need to be said. But one bitter truth is that on this issue, that has huge bearing on the honour and dignity of Tamils as a race, the prejudiced and single-tracked position taken by your Newspaper without giving space to any counter-view is an insult to the institution’s hoary 134-year-old history with the legacy – liberty, justice and human rights – of its distinguished founders.

3. Coverage of the Tamil Nadu power crisis: Despite the fact that the crisis has been going on for years, basically due to gross mismanagement and rent-seeking, not once did the Newspaper highlight these maladies and offered viable and workable solutions available if only they were sought for. Instead the Newspaper has been content with some odd crisis-reporting and publishing long-winded handouts containing wrong diagnosis and false information thereby misleading the gullible public.

As I understand, the function of Reader’s Editor is to collect, consider, investigate, respond to, and where appropriate come to a conclusion about readers’ comments, concerns and complaints in a prompt and timely manner, from a position of independence within the paper.

According to the terms of reference the Readers’ Editor of The Hindu is a Board of Directors appointment. “He is independent of the Editor, the editorial personnel, and the editorial process. The key objectives of the appointment are to instititionalise the practise of self-regulation, accountability, and transparency; to create a new visible framework to improve accuracy, verification, and standards in the newspaper; and to strengthen bonds between the newspaper and its millions of print platform and online readers.”

Accepting the appointment as Readers’ Editor, you had said: “The efficacy and credibility of self-regulation depends on a robust autonomous system of redress. The Readers’ Editor’s Terms of Reference provide a clear mechanism to ensure accountability of the editorial team to its readers; and to retain and enhance readers’ trust in the newspaper. I will strive to do my best to be an effective interface between The Hindu’s readers and the 134-year-old institution.”

The credibility of this century-plus institution is at stake and it is time for you to do your duty as per your calling. Mine may be a small and insignificant voice. But if it is not heeded promptly it may not take long for this to resonate far and wide.

Awaiting appropriate action and early response.

Yours Truly,

M.G.Devasahayam

Mr. Paneerselvam’s Letter to Mr. Devasahayam: April 10, 2013

Dear Mr. Devasahayam,

I appreciate your efforts to express your opinion of the paper in general and my role in particular. There seems to be conflation of few issues in your mail, and this response is to disaggregate these and address each one of them based on their own merits.

1) Carrying jacket advertisements is not a violation of the values and codes. In fact, the article 6 of Living our Values says this very clearly: The Company recognises that good journalism cannot survive, develop, and flourish unless it is viable and commercially successful. Fair business practices are vital. What I said in my column was the paper’s commitment to resist the power of advertisers in resorting to unfair practices. Can you honestly point out another media outlet which has maintained such high standards? Of course, you have every right to differ from the stand taken by the paper on some crucial issues.

2) Your opinion on Justice Katju’s piece need not necessarily reflect the opinion of others. And, the opinion articles need not necessarily reflect the opinion of the paper.Your opinion is valid as much as Katju’s opinion. After all the newspaper is site for democratic debate.

3) On Nuclear power and Sri Lankan Tamil issues, I do see both change and continuity in the paper’s position over the time. The areas of continuity are: 1)Nuclear power remains an option for addressing the energy needs of the country, 2) Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity shall not be disturbed. The areas where the change has taken place are: 1)report on the protest against the nuclear power, give space to critical voices. (See M V Ramana’s book review yesterday and the space given for it). 2) constantly flag the failings of the Sri Lankan state both on the political front as well as the post war reconciliation front. It will be unfair on my part not to acknowledge these changes though these may not satisfy some who have a strong opinion on these matters. My personal opinion on nuclear establishment is well known but I do not expect that to be the opinion of the paper.

My personal working credo as the readers’ editor is to recognise that there are many points of convergence as much as points of divergence between the newspaper and its myriad readers and not to be torpedoed by ideological prism.

I do share the readers opinion to the editorial and the editorial’s stand point to readers on a regular basis so that one can know exactly where the paper stands on various issues. I do get much more strident criticisms from the Hindutva brigade. I do not expect the paper to soften its stand on secularism. The same principle extends to other issues too.

Hope I have explained my role rather clearly.

Regards,

Panneer

[A S Paneerselvam, Readers’ Editor, THE HINDU]

Mr. Devasahayam’s Letter to Mr. Paneerselvam: April 12, 2013

Dear Mr. Panneerselvam,

I have pondered over your rapid-fire response and was wondering whether it would be of any use to waste time on these interchanges when the mind-set of the Newspaper management in general and Reader’s Editor in particular appear to have been hermetically sealed with a preset agenda on most burning public issues. Hence the delay. Nevertheless I thought I should write because as they say ‘silence is consent’.

First to the jet-speed reply: Email containing my letter was sent at 10.34 AM on 10 April 2013 and your reply was received by me in exactly 52 minutes at 11.26 AM. Conceding that you received and read my mail instantly, in all of 52 minutes you had collected information on the major issues raised by me, considered them carefully, investigated into the factual veracity of the issues raised, came to a conclusion about my comments, concerns and complaints and responded to me ‘from a position of independence within the paper’ trashing all the points I had raised. Indeed, a fabulously efficient way of treating your Readers as interlopers and riff-raffs.

Your instant reply to my detailed well-deliberated letter, indicates that you have not given even scant attention to its contents. As the Readers’ Editor of The Hindu, you were expected to institutionalise the practise of self-regulation, accountability and transparency; and to ‘strengthen the bonds between the newspaper and its millions of Readers’.

Your vague response does not indicate that you are in a position of independence within the paper to strengthen the bonds between the readers and the paper. On the contrary, yours is an attempt to rationalise the one-sided coverage and blacking out of news relevant to the readers but may not be in the interest of the ruling regimes in the centre, the state and in some other country!

For instance Dr. Gopalakrishnan’s expert view was not on the desirability or undesirability of nuclear energy. Though he is a pro-nuclear man he had clearly highlighted the fact that Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is unsafe in its present form because sub-standard material has been used in the reactor and quality of many key equipments are suspect. He was of the considered view that commissioning the plant under these circumstances could in all likelihood lead to accidents if not immediately, at least in the near future resulting in major disaster for the life and livelihoods of millions. Is it not the duty and responsibility of THE HINDU to report this view of one of the top most nuclear experts in the country so that your Readers know of the truth and the project proponents also can respond appropriately to clear the air of all doubt and suspicion.

Heaven forbid, if something untoward happens after the subservient nuclear establishment, which is under immense Russian and PMO pressure to commission the plant goes ahead at any cost, will not THE HINDU and other media that deliberately blacked-out this news be not accused of suppressing the truth? In the event it is inappropriate to equate this to giving space to M V Ramana’s book review which is a scholarly work whereas what Dr. Gopalakrishnan did was to warn of clear danger.

On accepting the onerous responsibility of Readers’ Editor, you yourself wrote: “The efficacy and credibility of self-regulation depends on a robust, autonomous system of redress.” What happened to those brave words?

Your own position on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is well known. Did not your conscience prick when the Editor gave such prominence to Kusal Perera’s article on the op-ed page and denied space for my well-reasoned counter? My response did not challenge Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity because that was not the issue here. Yes indeed, there is real good continuity in what your Newspaper has been doing on the SL Tamil issue. Perhaps despite your good intentions and inside knowledge you are unable to break this continuity!

In passing all I would request is that after being captive to several interests please do not preach us about ‘Living our Values’, which your 134-year-old institution with a hoary past is certainly not adhering to.

Regards,

M.G.Devasahayam

Mr. Paneerselvam’s Letter to Mr. Devasahayam: April 12, 2013

Dear Mr. Devasahayam,

I feel really sad that you have drawn a different set of conclusions from my sincere effort to promptly address your concerns. If someone is familiar about the subject, does it really warrant a long duration to ponder and respond to queries? I beg to differ. The two issues you had touched–Nuclear and Sri Lankan Tamil– have a very strong emotive elements.

My role as the readers’ editor is not that of a pre-censor, but a post-publication evaluator. As a former IAS officer, I believe that you will appreciate that to make my role to be effective it not just enough to be truly independent and bold but also not to overreach. Some of your complaints are about the editorial policy, which is defined by the editor and his editorial team, really fall under the category of overreach for a readers’ editor. I can explain their policy but cannot interfere with it. I believe it is vital to support the independence of the editorial. The acid test for this is how I conduct myself when the paper’s opinion is different from my own. Can I exhibit the same level of tolerance when articles that are opposed to my views appear in print? Can I expect from our political leadership and the corporate houses to be tolerant if I do not posses the same?

I do not expect the paper to share my world view on all issues but that does not mean I can work for any publication in the country. The shared positions between the Hindu and myself outweighs my differences with the publication. The shared areas are: steadfast commitment to secularism, democratic values, to take the difficulties faced by poor and marginalised and finally a fine balance between public interest and what public is interested in.

I generally refrain from expounding on my personal political understanding as I believe they are evident in my writings as a journalist. I am also very, very clear that my views, ideology and politics, will not colour my role as the Readers’ Editor. This explanatory note is primarily because I value your work on JP and the Emergency, your personal contribution to his well-being during his days of arrest under your charge in Chandigarh. I think my strength lies in not conflating issues, but in my ability to disaggregate and see each one of them in their own light.

We can agree to disagree.
Regards,

A S Panneerselvan

Mr. Mr. Devasahayam’ Letter to Paneerselvam’s: April 14, 2013

Dear Mr. Pannerselvam,

Thanks for your prompt response. You have really been candid and I appreciate that. Under the circumstances there is nothing more to write except reproducing a letter received from PMANE, Struggle Committee, a short while ego which is self explanatory. The inference in the letter (in bold/large letters) is foreboding and ominous and clearly reflect the kind of coverage by THE HINDU in this extremely sensitive matter that has bearing on the lives and livelihoods of millions.

I have said what has to be said and if it is not heeded it is the Newspaper’s burden.

Regards,

M.G.Devasahayam

 

Punjab &Haryana High Court-issues notices to Centre over mandatory UID for licence #Aadhaar


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Express news service : Chandigarh, Tue Jan 15 2013, 02:04 hrs
On a petition filed against Aadhaar cards, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday issued notices to the centre and UT Administration.
A petition filed by Sanjiv Pandey came up for hearing before a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain. The bench has issued notices for March 4.
The petitioner has sought quashing of executive order of Deputy Commissioner, UT Administration dated December 5, 2012, which has made the UID card mandatory for registration of vehicles and grant of learner/ regular driving license.
The petitioner’s counsel Gagan Geet Kaur submitted that UID cards are unconstitutional and have no legal sanctity as the National Identification Authority of India Bill – 2010 is pending in Parliament.
Kaur further pleaded before the bench that application form for the registration of UID cards clearly states that Aadhar enrollment is free and voluntary and that there is no grounds for the government to be forcing the public to get enrollment by making its requirement in essential public services.
The court was also informed that unfortunately, UID cards are given too much importance than the other proofs of identity and residence such as voter card and passport which are issued by Election Commission of India and the Ministry of Foreign respectively.

 

 

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE- Paid news in Gujarat Elections


PRESS NOTE
December 17, 2012
            I have been informed today by Shri Rajeev Ranjan Nag, Member, Press Council of India and Convener of the team I appointed for looking into complaints of paid news and violation of Press freedom in the Gujarat election, that large scale practice of paid news in the recent Gujarat elections has come to the notice of the fact finding team.
            The full report about this is still being prepared and shall be submitted to me shortly, but I am informed that not only the print media but even the visual media (TV Channels) indulged in large scale practice of paid news in the Gujarat elections.
            This is indeed shocking and very disturbing as it is a heavy blow to democracy in the country. Certain politicians seem to be making a mockery of the purity of elections, and in their desire to get elected are prepared to go to any extent.
            After I receive the full report of the fact finding team I shall inform the Election Commission of India about it (as well as the general public and concerned authorities)  and request that elections of candidates who indulged in paid news and violation of press freedom in the recent election should be cancelled, as was done in the case of an elected candidate in the recent U.P Legislative Assembly Elections.
            This also vindicates my plea for effective media regulation and punitive powers in the proposed Media Council for taking action against the delinquent media. ‘Self regulation’ has proved to be ineffective, and the recent Gujarat elections is the latest example of the malaise in a large section of the media, and it is not just an aberration.
                                                                                                (Justice Markandey Katju)
                                                                                                Chairman, Press Council of India

 

Press Release-The Election Commission of India’ responds


PRESS RELEASE
DATE: 20 October 2012
·        Finally ‘The Election Commission of India’ responded to our letter for exercising our ‘Right Not to Vote the Listed Candidates” by using Section 49(O) the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961. But surprisingly till today there is no response from the office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat.

  • “As you are already aware, a proposal made by the Commission for making provisions in the law for `none of the above’ button in the EVM is pending with the Govt. […]Further, the procedure to be followed in case of Rule 49-O is fully explained in the said rule. If a voter, after going through the formalities of identification, application of indelible ink on the finger, etc., decides not to vote for any candidate, he/she has to inform the polling officer/presiding officer about the decision, and the latter will then make entries in the Register of Electors to the effect that the voter decided not to vote for any candidate, and the voter will put his/her signature under such entries. It would be seen that the procedure followed under Rule 49-O is similar to that prescribed under Rule 41(2).” – Mr. K. F. Wilfred, the Principal Secretary of Election Commission of India.
Campaign VAAC
C/o Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah
37, Patrakar Colony, Tandalja Road, Post-Akota, Vadodara – 390 020
Phone/Fax: 0265-2320399
Email: rohit.prajapati@gmail.comtrupti.vadodara@gmail.com
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


By FAX & Email
Date20 October 2012

To,
Mr. K. F. Wilfred
The Principal Secretary, Election Commission of India
Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi – 110 001

Smt. Anita Karwal
The Chief Electoral Officer, General Administration Department
Block No.7, Second Floor, Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar.

Sub: Prompt email reply of Mr. K. F. Wilfred, the Principal Secretary dated 19 October 2012 – ‘Right to Reject Candidates’. No response from office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat.

Sir/Madam,

Thanks for prompt email reply dated 19 October 2012 of Mr. K. F. Wilfred, the Principal Secretary of Election Commission of India.  But till today there is no response from the office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat.

Your letter states that “As you are already aware, a proposal made by the Commission for making provisions in the law for `none of the above’ button in the EVM is pending with the Govt. This issue is also pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court.”

You further stated in your letter that “In so far as exercising the right under Rule 41(2) and 49-O of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, is concerned, it may be noted that provisions of Rule 41(2) are applicable only in respect of elections held using ballot box and ballot papers. Further, the procedure to be followed in case of Rule 49-O is fully explained in the said rule. If a voter, after going through the formalities of identification, application of indelible ink on the finger, etc., decides not to vote for any candidate, he/she has to inform the polling officer/presiding officer about the decision, and the latter will then make entries in the Register of Electors to the effect that the voter decided not to vote for any candidate, and the voter will put his/her signature under such entries. It would be seen that the procedure followed under Rule 49-O is similar to that prescribed under Rule 41(2).

There are instructions of the Commission that the polling personnel should be thoroughly briefed at the training sessions about the procedure to be followed under Rule 49-O, so that the voters intending to avail of the provisions of that rule are able to do so.”

Let us remind you that in the State Assembly Election of 2007of Gujarat State and Parliamentary Election of 2009 the people had difficulties to exercise their right under 49(O) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 because the local booth officer in most places and even the district head in many places had no idea about section 49(O) or they were not willing to allow people to use this right for the reasons best known to them. Many voters who demanded this right were insulted and sent back or were forced to vote for any of the listed candidates.

That is why we once again request you to take following steps as part of your voter’s awareness campaign:

1. Sent official press release by organising the press conference in Gujarat State to make people aware that those who do not want to cast their vote in favour of listed candidate can also exercise their ‘right to reject the listed candidates’ by using section 49(O) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961. Also send us the copy of the press release so that we can also circulate your press release to our media contacts.

2. Give advertisements in Radio, TV and newspaper about section 49(O) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.

3. Prepare a poster in Gujarati language and prominently display the poster in public places.

We are waiting for the reply of the office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat State.

Rohit Prajapati          Trupti Shah               Amrish Brahmbhatt              Kantibhai Mistry
 [ROHIT PRAJAPATI]         [TRUPTI SHAH]       [AMRISH BRAHMBHATT]          [KANTIBHAI MISTRY]
Campaign for Vote Against All Candidates [VAAC]

Copy to,
Shri Sanjeev Kumar (IAS), The Additional Chief Electoral Officer
General Administration Department, Block No.7, Second Floor, Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar

Copy of the letter 

ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA

 

Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi-110 001

                                                                                         No. 4/3/2012/SDR Dated : 19th Oct. , 2012

To

        Sh. Rohit Prajapati,

        37, Patrakar Colony,

        Tandalja Road, Post-Akota,

        Vadodara.

Sub: Right to reject candidates.

Sir,

Please refer to your letter dated 18th October, 2012.

2. As you are already aware, a proposal made by the Commission for making provisions in the law for `none of the above’ button in the EVM is pending with the Govt. This issue is also pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

3. In so far as exercising the right under Rule 41(2) and 49-O of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, is concerned, it may be noted that provisions of Rule 41(2) are applicable only in respect of elections held using ballot box and ballot papers. Further, the procedure to be followed in case of Rule 49-O is fully explained in the said rule. If a voter, after going through the formalities of identification, application of indelible ink on the finger, etc., decides not to vote for any candidate, he/she has to inform the polling officer/presiding officer about the decision, and the latter will then make entries in the Register of Electors to the effect that the voter decided not to vote for any candidate, and the voter will put his/her signature under such entries. It would be seen that the procedure followed under Rule 49-O is similar to that prescribed under Rule 41(2) .

4. There are instructions of the Commission that the polling personnel should be thoroughly briefed at the training sessions about the procedure to be followed under Rule 49-O, so that the voters intending to avail of the provisions of that rule are able to do so.

Yours faithfully,
(K.F.WILFRED)
PRINCIPAL SECRETARY

Copy to : The Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat, Gandhinagar.

___________________________________________________________________

 

Bogey Of Maoism Raised Against Koodankulam Protester


By V Geetha

26 March, 2012
Countercurrents.org

A letter written to Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman , Press Council of India on the totally skewed reporting of the arrest of three protesters at Koodankulam

Dear Justice Katju

My name is V. Geetha, and I am live in Chennai. I am a writer, with an interest in civil rights issues. I write this note to register my shock and bewilderment at some recent developments in my state. Given your concerns about the relationship between freedom and responsibility as far as the media is concerned, I felt it important to convey some of my – and other peoples’ – misgivings over media reporting of sensitive political events.

Throughout today, March 25, SUN News, part of the SUN TV network, while reporting on three men arrested over the last few days, for supporting the anti-nuclear plant struggle at Kudankulam has alleged they are all ‘Maoists. The channel has further gone on to note that it has got wind of a ‘ naxalite plot’ that is all set to take over the anti-nuclear plant protests at Idinthakarai.

As you know, the people of the village of Idinthakarai on the south-east coast of Tamil Nadu have been protesting the establishment of a nuclear power plant at Kudankulam. The protest has been the most peaceful and principled that this state has witnessed in recent years, being led by community leaders from across several social strata, including fisher folk, day labourers, artisans, traders and teachers. To thus characterise their struggle, which is essentially one that seeks to assert their right to life and liberty, as incipiently ‘Maoist’ is both mischievous, irresponsible and downright disrespectful.

To allege that the three men arrested are ‘Maoists’s is no less mischievous. One of them, Vaniarasu, belongs to a well-known dalit political party, committed to the electoral process and recognised as such by the Election Commission of India – this is the Viduthalai Siruthaigal Katchi. Another, Mukilan has been active in Tamil and left cultural circles. Satish the third person is currently a student, who was once arrested under POTA, when he was barely 20 years of age, and charged under Section 5 of the now defunct law. He has since been out on bail, and attending his court hearings as and when he is required. He has currently trying to re-build his life and make up for his lost years.

Quoting unnamed police and Q branch sources SUN News Channel has attempted to weave a grand conspiracy theory involving all these three men. The channel has been especially vicious in its reporting on Satish, given his legal history. It is as if once arragined under a draconian law, an individual cannot but be termed ‘guilty’ of ‘acts of terror’. This flies in the face of all civilised notions of wrong and right, and the important ethical principle that some of our more outstanding judges have lived by – tempering as they have done, the measure of legal justice with the measure of compassion and understanding.

At various times today, we have been told the following by SUN News:

1. The three men who were arrested are all ‘Maoists’, and they have taken over the anti-plant struggle. In fact, just as in Nandigram, they have ‘infiltrated’ the region and the entire struggle is now gone over to their influence.

2. Of the three men arrested, it has been said, that one of them (Satish), has 12 cases pending against him at Kudangulam police station. It was also said that a case has been filed under POTA (sic) against the same man. The news channel refers to unnamed police sources to back these claims.

3. SUN News claims that it has been told by the Q branch that the anti-Kudangulam protesters have learned their ‘technique’ from the Maoists – laying road blocks by breaking parts of the road, for instance.

There are several issues here:

- the three men who have been arrested were all part of peaceful protests against the plant that has seized several parts of the state. They were arrested between March 21 and March 23, and kept in illegal detention for a while before they were produced before a Magistrate. SUN News has been flashing their photographs, alleging their ‘naxal’ involvement, thus creating a hysteria of sorts over what is happening at Kudankulam.

- when concerned citizens have called the news channel to protest the sustained telecast of these views that are completely baseless, the TV channel has shown little or no remorse or respect. Only after constant arguing have they deigned to note that Satish was once charged under POTA.

- the litany of ‘Maoists’ taking over the anti-nuclear plant struggle has been time and again refuted by the organisers of the struggle at Idinthakarai, and while SUN News channel carries these views, does not think it important to bracket the so-called police stories that it claims to have received. These continue to circulate on the channel as ‘self-evident’ truth.

We feel deeply pained at what seems on the face of it a complicit and silent pact between certain sections of the media and the police to discredit the anti-Kudangulam plant struggle. It appears that the police and the governments at the Centre and state levels are now determined to use the one weapon in their arsenal that is bound to either silence or render non-credible perfectly democratic and constitutional struggles – the charge of ‘Maoism‘. That the media instead of challenging these attempts of the state to malign its own people should participate in it is deeply disturbing. Equally disturbing is the manner in which the media, at times, behaves like a juror and a court, and passes judgement, even before it is clear what the cases are all about and when the Courts of this land are yet to decide on the merits and demerits of such cases.

I do hope that the Press Council of India can take note of such developments as and when they happen and record its disquiet.

Thank you, Geetha