New Delhi: With five states going for assembly polls before May 2010, Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi on Friday said that paid news was a matter of grave concern for the election panel.
He also suggested that opinion polls should be banned during elections.
Elections in West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry are scheduled to be held by May.
"Paid news around election time is a matter of great concern. It attempts to deceive the voters and affect their opinion. All political parties are unanimous that paid news is a big problem because they are all hit by one another," Quraishi said.
"There has to be some legal means to stop this," he added.
Quoting an example, Quraishi said: "In Bihar we had a media monitoring body which kept a check on anything that appeared to be like a paid news item. We sent 86 notices and called the candidates who admitted they paid for the news. It worked."
Quraishi said the election commission and the law ministry were organising seven regional consultations on electoral reforms.
Four of them, in Bhopal, Mumbai, Kolkata and Lucknow, have already taken place and three more will take place in Chandigarh, Bangalore and Guwahati.
It will culminate in a national consultation in New Delhi April 7-8, 2010.
"Among the suggested reforms is preventing criminals from contesting elections. Political parties say that their opponents keep filing false cases against them, but some means have to be evolved to stop this. Parties should not give ticket to such people," Quraishi said.
"State funding of elections is unfortunate, but it is increasing and we are worried about it. We think that six months before the elections, government advertisements should be stopped because there is a possibility of misuse of public money," the chief election commissioner added.
"Advertisements appear even on the poll day which may affect opinions," he said.
While the election commission has the power to register a political party, there is no power to deregister one. There are many parties which do not exist and may be a money laundering device, Quraishi added.