The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a plea seeking action against ‘paid news’ after which the petitioner withdrew it to approach an appropriate forum.
Paid news is a phenomenon by which political advertising is presented as news item.
“Don’t you think enough is enough,” a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who had filed the petition.
“Everybody who has a grievance in this world cannot come to the Supreme Court with a petition under Article 32,” the bench, also comprising justices R Banumathi and Navin Sinha, said.
Article 32 of the Constitution deals with the writ jurisdiction of the apex court through which citizens can seek the enforcement of their fundamental rights.
During the brief hearing, the counsel appearing for Upadhyay said they had not approached the appropriate forum, that is the Election Commission of India, before filing the petition and wanted to withdraw the plea.
“Counsel for the petitioner prays for withdrawal of the writ petition with liberty to move the appropriate forum for redressal of the grievances highlighted. Permission is granted,” the bench noted in its order.
In his petition, Upadhyay has alleged that paid news only “masquerades as news and in actuality, are advertisements under the garb of news items”.
“Thus, they totally mislead the electors. This raises potential concerns relating to the veracity of the claims and possible defamatory consequences of such news items and advertisements,” the plea said.
He had also pointed out in his plea that the Press Council of India (PCI), in its report on paid news, had recommended that paid news should be declared to be a corrupt practice.
“Paid news and political advertisements form a deceptive pool of knowledge and information,” the petition said.
The plea had said that publication of paid news also involves the use of unaccounted money, under-reporting of election expenses of political parties and candidates indulging in other kinds of malpractices.
“The trust and confidence of electoral demographic that our democracy enjoys will soon be lost, if paid news and political advertisements remain unattended and become new norm,” the plea had said.
The petition had sought a direction to the Centre to take steps to implement the recommendations of the Election Commission of India and the Law Commission on paid news.
It had also sought a direction to the poll panel and the PCI to take appropriate steps to curtail paid news in line with the recommendations of the Law Commission and declare it as a corrupt practice.