Calls for declaration of contributions from Electoral Bonds mandatory and modifications to the Companies Act to put back cap of 7.5% of companies’ last three year’s average profits for better oversight of political party funding
The Chief Election Commissioner of Indian Mr. Om Prakash Rawat has called for greater transparency in political party funding and donations they receive from companies.
Towards this the Commission has written to the Government of India not to exclude the proceeds from electoral bonds from the requirement of reporting. At the same time the Commission has also recommended reconsidering the amendments in the Companies Act that omit the limit of 7.5% of companies’ average net profits in the preceding three years.
Furthermore companies should be made to declare their party-wise contributions. These changes were needed to bring greater transparency in the funding that political parties receive, Mr. Rawat said at a National Conference on Electoral and Political Reforms organized by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the Karnataka Election Watch (KEW) in Bengaluru recently.
Other key participants included: Sri. Sanjeev Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka, Prof. Trilochan Sastry, IIM Bangalore, Founder Member of National Election Watch & Association for Democratic Reforms, Prof. Jagdeep Chhokar, IIM Ahmedabad, Founder Member of National Election Watch & Association for Democratic Reforms, Maj. Gen. Anil Verma (Retd.), Head – National Election Watch & Association for Democratic Reforms, and Sri. Harish Narasappa, State Coordinator, Karnataka Election Watch.
Addressing the gathering CEC appreciated the ongoing efforts of the civil society for electoral and political reforms. He stated that the Election Commission has made several important proposals related to areas ranging from decriminalization of politics to reforms relating to political parties, election expenditure regulation and election management issues.
The CEC said that persons with serious offences should be debarred from contesting elections if charges have been framed by a competent court provided the offence is punishable by imprisonment of at least 5 years and the case is at least 6 months prior to the election in question.
Persons with serious offences should be barred from contesting elections if charges have been framed by a competent court provided the offence is punishable by imprisonment of at least 5 years and the case is at least 6 months prior to the election in question – CEC
The CEC also proposed to make bribery a cognizable offence and countermand elections on grounds of bribery. Pertaining to reforms in political parties, the CEC stated that the ECI should be empowered and authorized to issue necessary orders regulating registration and de-registration of political parties as many political parties register but never contest any elections perhaps to only avail the income tax exemptions afforded to the parties. Furthermore, the Commission proposed that income tax exemption should be available only to political parties that contest elections. The CEC also said that parties should be statutorily required to submit their audited accounts to the ECI. Furthermore, a panel of accountants maintained by the Comptroller and Auditor General should audit these accounts and make them available in the public domain for further scrutiny. The Commission has proposed that there should be a ceiling on the election expenditure of political parties in order to maintain a level playing field and control the use of money power in elections.
There were panel discussions on:
- Impact of muscle and money power in elections;
- Legal advocacy as a tool for electoral reforms;
- Political reforms and the role of media;
- Exceptions to use of money power in elections and success stories;
- Information technology and it’s usage for better governance;
- Role of youth in voter awareness.
The key observation from the coordinators of various State Election Watch chapters was that recognized people from EW be given the opportunity to participate in the electoral process (awareness and observation) and on the day of elections. The framework implemented by the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Election Watch chapters was presented by Rajesh Kota VVS which was further discussed among the participants. Members from other states desired to study this implemented framework further for replication in their respective states. They were invited to the Hyderabad Election Watch Office for further discussions and action plan.
By Rajesh Kota VVS, IFHD, Hyderabad