Consensus required to check prevalence of paid news: Ansari



Onboard Air India One: Expressing concern over the malaise of paid news, Vice President Hamid Ansari on Wednesday said that corrective steps in this regard have to be taken by consensus.

"...correctives have to be done. But correctives cannot be introduced. This is not a matter for the government to do it. It is not a matter for the chair of the House to do it. It has to be done by consensus," he told newsmen who accompanied him on an official visit to Belgium.

Ansari, who is also the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, acknowledged that problems had crept into the system.

Political parties, at a meeting convened by the Election Commission on Monday, had sought to put the blame of increase in incidents of paid news at the poll regulator's doorstep contending that "excessive limits" on canvassing have prompted them to look for a way out .

Noting that he had raised the issue during the diamond jubilee celebration of the Election Commission, Ansari said that the poll authority was veering around to a view that such expenses be added to the electoral expenses of the candidate.

On reforms in the functioning of Parliament, he said these measures need to be evolved through a consensus.

"There are procedural correctives, which from experience can always be introduced. But, the way Parliament has worked all these years is that any procedural modifications, changes, correctives have always been preceded by very careful consensus building," Ansari said.

He recounted initiatives like not allowing a question put up for Question Hour to lapse and limiting Zero Hour mentions to three minutes among the improvements carried out in the Rajya Sabha.

"You discover where correctives can be introduced and later discuss it with party leaders," Ansari said.

The Vice President sidestepped queries on whether he favoured an out of court settlement in the Ayodhya issue.

"This is a matter which is firmly in courts and we will have to wait. The Prime Minister's statement put it very clearly the day the verdict came up that there is a moratorium for three months and there is the right to appeal on this.

"Well, now it is upto the parties to decide their next step. We will have to wait and see how this plays itself," Ansari said.

Ansari strongly defended the Upper House when he was asked about the lack of debate preceding the passage of legislations.

"I can speak for Rajya Sabha. It has not happened. I think the practice is well established, well accepted that Bills will be debated," he said.

Ansari said that there was a system followed by Parliament to allocate time to any particular legislation that comes up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha.

"The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs comes to the Business Advisory Committee which meets every Thursday with government's legislative proposals. Then it is discussed whether the Bill requires two hours or three hours or four hours," he said.

PTI