Report No. 255
(ii) Electoral offence
7.49.1. Paying for news is a practice that affects free and fair elections. It affects the electors' right to know and also skews elections in favour of those who possess economic wherewithal. There are also several attendant negative consequences in terms of vitiating the atmosphere in which elections are conducted. It is thus imperative that paying for news be made an electoral offence as well as receiving payment for it. Consequently, we recommend the introduction of a new Section 127B for this purpose. Section 127 B will read as follows:
"127B. Paying for, and receiving payment for news.- (1) Any person who is found paying for news, or receiving payment for news shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and with fine, which may extend to twenty-five lakh rupees.
(2) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall apply to payments made by registered political parties for the management of official publications (print, radio, television and all other electronic) owned or controlled by them.
(3) To avail of the exemption under sub-section (2) all registered political parties must disclose their interests in any publication in the form and manner notified by the ECI in this regard.
(4) An attempt to commit an act punishable under sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years, or with fine, which may extend to ten lakh rupees, or with both.
(5) No court shall take cognisance of any offence punishable under this section unless there is a complaint made by order of, or under authority from, the ECI or the Chief Electoral Officer of the State concerned."
7.49.2. Not only will the incorporation of this electoral offence make paying for news penal, the stringent punishment will ensure that if the candidate himself is found guilty, then, in all likelihood, he will be disqualified pursuant to Section 8(3) of the RPA. A provision similar to the suggested Section 126-D should also be incorporated in the event that it is an offence committed by a company.