a) Pay to publish

The Election Commission’s order disqualifying Madhya Pradesh Minister Narottam Mishra for three years is an important step in curbing ‘paid news’ in the electoral arena. It is not the first such order. An Uttar Pradesh MLA, Umlesh Yadav, was disqualified in 2011 on the same ground, of suppressing expenditure incurred in the publication of paid news. The EC has called paid news, a term that refers to propaganda in favour of a candidate masquerading as news reports or articles, a “grave electoral malpractice” on the part of candidates to circumvent expenditure limits. In a typical inquiry into the paid news phenomenon, the newspaper or publication concerned denies that it was paid for publishing the material and insists that it was part of its normal election coverage. The candidate denies authorising the publication and takes the plea that he or she could not possibly account for something that was not paid for. Mr. Mishra was no exception. He, in fact, argued that his rivals could be behind the 42 reports that the EC’s National Level Committee on Paid News found to be nothing but election advertisements, without any disclaimer. However, the EC did not buy his arguments, mainly because it was difficult to believe that he had not seen reports that appeared in his Datia constituency during the campaign for the 2008 Assembly elections, often with his picture and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s symbol. Many of these reports carried identical words, and in some there was a direct appeal for votes on his behalf. Paid news is not an electoral offence yet, but there is a case to make it one. The EC has recommended to the government that the Representation of the People Act, 1951, be amended to make the publishing, or abetting the publishing, of paid news to further a candidate’s prospects or prejudicially affect another’s an electoral offence. Until this is done, contestants who use paid news can only be hauled up for failing to include the expenses involved in their campaign accounts. In Mr. Mishra’s case, the EC has taken the view that even if it were true that he made no payment, he ought to have included a notional amount in his accounts. Also, candidates cannot simply claim that these reports were not authorised by them. As long as the intention to boost someone’s prospects was clear, and there was no objection from the candidate, the EC can rule that there was ‘implied authorisation’. Mr. Mishra’s case pertains to the 2008 election, and by the time the Commission has given its verdict he is into his next term, having been re-elected in 2013. It is difficult not to notice that the enormous delay in adjudicating such questions is often created by candidates approaching the courts to stall inquiries. A legal framework in which electoral issues are expeditiously adjudicated must also be put in place if election law is to be enforced in both letter and spirit.

b) New tech, old values

The long arm of the European Commission has once again struck the technology world with the imposition of a €2.42 billion ($2.7 billion) fine on Google for the company’s abuse of its market position. The Commission found that Google abused its dominance in the Internet search market to give itself an unfair advantage in another market — comparison shopping services. Google’s comparison shopping service disadvantaged competitors by placing them lower in its search results, systematically giving Google’s own services higher placement and greater visibility, leading to more clicks. Google, which is required to pay the fine within 90 days, may appeal the decision. While the fine itself is unlikely to pose financial problems for Google, whose parent company, Alphabet, posted a profit of over $55 billion in 2016, the impact on how Google does business is likely to be significant; the Commission has said, and rightly, that it would leave it to Google to remedy the situation. The European Union’s Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, also said the ruling could guide future decisions on complaints around Google favouring its own products and services via its search engine. The verdict is the latest in a long list of actions the EU has taken against tech companies from across the Atlantic. From a fine earlier on Microsoft for bundling its browser and operating system together, to a record €13 billion tax bill slapped on Apple last year for back taxes owed to Ireland, Brussels has signalled in no uncertain terms that it is determined to take on large tech companies, some of which have become gargantuan transnational entities, in the interest of its citizens. The old idea that market power cannot be used to stymie competition, a result of which is a lowering of consumer choice and welfare, is good even when the market is new and changing rapidly, as happens at the technological frontier. Attempts to cast Google’s run-in with the Commission as a game of trans-Atlantic dominance have quietened down, partly reflecting the wariness with which the current White House views tech giants, many of whom spoke vociferously against Donald Trump’s ‘travel ban’. In contrast to criticism from the U.S. government when the Google complaint was first lodged and for the Apple tax bill of 2016, the White House refrained from getting involved after the EU fined Google. The fault lines between tech giants, which often act as supra-national entities, and national and multinational governmental bodies, are changing fast as the relationship between citizens, their governments, media and technology is transformed. In the years to come we can expect new lines to be drawn as technological frontiers are crossed. While technology is constantly changing, valuing choice, competition and consumer welfare never gets outdated or obsolete.


1) Curbing

Meaning: To control or limit something that is not wanted.

Example: The government should act to curb tax evasion.

Synonyms: Limiting, Restricting

2) Incurred

Meaning: Become subject to (something unwelcome or unpleasant) as a result of one’s own behaviour or actions.

Example: I will pay any expenses incurred.

Synonyms: Suffer, Sustain

Antonyms: Avoid

3) Propaganda

Meaning: Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.

Example: He was charged with distributing enemy propaganda.

Synonyms: Information, Promotion

4) Masquerading

Meaning: Behaviour that is intended to prevent the truth about something unpleasant or not wanted from becoming known.

Example: A journalist masquerading as a man in distress.

5) Circumvent

Meaning: Find a way around (an obstacle).

Example: If you come to an obstruction in a road you can seek to circumvent it.

Synonyms: Avoid, Get round

6) Concerned

Meaning: Relate to; be about; worried, troubled, or anxious.

Example: The villagers are concerned about burglaries.

Synonyms: Worried, Anxious

Antonyms: Unconcerned

7) Disclaimer

Meaning: A statement that denies something, especially responsibility.

Example: The novel carries a disclaimer about the characters bearing no relation to living persons.

Synonyms: Denial, Refusal

Antonyms: Acceptance, Acknowledgement

8) Abetting

Meaning: Encourage or assist (someone) to do something wrong, in particular to commit a crime.

Example: He was not guilty of murder, but guilty of aiding and abetting others

Synonyms: Assist, Aid

Antonyms: Hinder

9) Prospects

Meaning: The possibility or likelihood of some future event occurring.

Example: There was no prospect of reconciliation.

Synonyms: Likelihood, Hope

10) Prejudicially

Meaning: Harmful to someone or something; detrimental.

Example: The proposals were considered prejudicial to the city centre.

Synonyms: Detrimental, Damaging

Antonyms: Beneficial, Advantageous

11) Hauled

Meaning: Force to appear for reprimand or trial; Propel or pull oneself with difficulty.

Example: He is to be hauled before the Press Council.

12) Pertains

Meaning: Be appropriate, related, or applicable to; Belong to something as a part, appendage, or accessory.

Example: Matters pertaining to the organization of government.

Synonyms: Concern, Relate to

13) Enormous

Meaning: Very large in size, quantity, or extent.

Example: Enormous sums of money.

Synonyms: Huge, Vast

Antonyms: Tiny

14) Adjudicating

Meaning: Make a formal judgement on a disputed matter.

Example: The Committee adjudicates on all betting disputes.

Synonyms: Judge, Examine

15) Expeditiously

Meaning: With speed and efficiency.

Example: The directors will move expeditiously to reach a conclusion.

16) Imposition

Meaning: A tax or duty; a situation in which someone expects another person to do something that they do not want to do or that is not convenient.

Example: The government began levying special impositions.

Synonyms: Levy, Charge

17) Dominance

Meaning: Power and influence over others.

Example: The worldwide dominance of Hollywood.

Synonyms: Supremacy, Superiority

Antonyms: Subservience, Subjugation

18) Verdict

Meaning: A decision on an issue of fact in a civil or criminal case or an inquest.

Example: The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Synonyms: Judgement, Adjudication

19) Gargantuan

Meaning: Enormous.

Example: A gargantuan appetite.

Synonyms: Massive, Huge

Antonyms: Tiny

20) Transnational

Meaning: Extending or operating across national boundaries.

Example: Transnational advertising agencies.

21) Stymie

Meaning: Prevent or hinder the progress of.

Example: The changes must not be allowed to stymie new medical treatments.

Synonyms: Impede, Hamper

Antonyms: Assist, Help

22) Quietened

Meaning: Make or become quiet and calm.

Example: Her mother was trying to quieten her.

Synonyms: Silence, Hush

23) Wariness

Meaning: Not completely trusting or certain about something or someone.

Example: The legal system is full of snares for those who are not wary.

Synonyms: Suspicion, Distrust

Antonyms: Trust

24) Vociferously

Meaning: In a loud and forceful manner.

Example: The country vociferously opposed the war.

25) Refrained

Meaning: Stop oneself from doing something.

Example: She refrained from comment

Synonyms: Abstain, Desist

26) Obsolete

Meaning: No longer produced or used; out of date.

Example: The disposal of old and obsolete machinery.

Synonyms: Out of date, Outdated

Antonyms: Contemporary, Current