The quiet hill state of Himachal Pradesh is the second most notorious in the northern region as far as paid news is concerned. The 2012 assembly elections in HP witnessed 104 confirmed paid news instances from across parties, second only to Punjab that had 523 cases.
Paid news has been an electoral offence since 2010. As per the status of the paid news available with the Election Commission, the number of confirmed cases in Himachal was on the higher side as compared to other states in the latest assembly elections held in these respective states since 2010 — HP was placed fourth as such.
In 2012, confirmed cases of paid news were 97 in UP, 30 in Uttarakhand, 414 in Gujarat and nine in Goa.
Since the monitoring on paid news cases came into being in 2010, the status of paid news during the Bihar elections of 2010 revealed 15 cases. Assembly elections in other states in 2011 accounted for several cases too.
In the elections held last year, no cases were reported in Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram; 93 were reported in Karnataka, 165 in MPh, 25 in Delhi, 32 in Chhattisgarh and 81 in Rajasthan.
A report on assembly elections of Himachal-2012 says notices issued for paid news to candidates of various parties included 16 of Congress, 12 of BJP, 13 independents and four of the Trinamool Congress (TMC). Cases of paid news were reported from 10 districts while no cases were reported from tribal districts Kinnaur and Lahaul -Spiti.
In descending order, cost of news item was the highest by independent candidate Rakesh Chopra (Ghumarwin assembly seat) at Rs 1.02 lakh; Rajinder Rana, independent (Sujanpur winner) paid Rs 58,785; TMC candidate Ram Sawroop from Solan paid ` 55,748; Ram Lal Thakur of Congress in Naina Devi paid Rs 39,205; Ram Kumar Chaudhary, Congress winner from Solan (also accused in a murder case) paid Rs 38,904.
It was officer on special duty Neeraj Kumar Sharma who identified and reported the cases about Himachal. On action, he said the cost accounted for the news item is added in the election expenditure of candidates.
Also, the cases are sent to the EC for referring to the Press Council or broadcasters’ association for any action they wish to take against the media outlet.