Archive for June, 2013

Conspiracy of silence: Applicability of RTI to political parties

Posted on June 21, 2013. Filed under: Elections, Political financing, Political parties, Politics, Right to Information, RTI |

Conspiracy of silence: Applicability of RTI to political parties

The June 03, 2013 decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC) declaring six national parties as public authorities under the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) is explained, along with implications of being a “public authority” for political parties. The major apprehensions of political parties are also discussed.

Advertisements
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

‘If you think RTI will destroy political system, your understanding is limited’

Posted on June 9, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

‘If you think RTI will destroy political system, your understanding is limited’

On RTI being applicable to political parties

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

For the record: We are doing this to bolster political parties

Posted on June 9, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

For the record: We are doing this to bolster political parties

Applicability of RTI Act to political parties

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Dacoits of Democracy

Posted on June 3, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Dacoits of Democracy

Jagdeep S. Chhokar

Political parties have taken away the essence of
democracy and are stalling all election reforms

Published in GovernanceNow, June 01-15, 2013, pp.42-48

“The election commission (EC) has been a
part of the journey of our republic since its
very inception. It has been working with
great responsibility from election to election
and contributing to taking the nation
forward step by step, from one destination
to another, from strength to strength
and bringing stability to our democratic
system. We can be justifiably proud that
free and fair elections have been held with
regularity in our country in the last six decades.
India and democracy have become
intertwined concepts and it is hard to
imagine one without the other. Democracy,
the very essence of our constitution,
has become our nation’s identity.

As it should, the EC has been making every
effort to create a level-playing field between
various candidates and has earned
the reputation of strictly and impartially
monitoring activities of candidates in
constituencies through its election observers.
The EC has always been willing to
use technology for modernisation and
for the better conduct of elections. In this
context, over the years, several measures
have been taken such as computerisation
of electoral rolls and photo identity cards
for voters.

Thus, not only has the EC helped strengthen
democracy at home, but also helped
enhance the prestige of India’s institutional
mechanisms. It is for these reasons
that the EC has been called upon often, to
share its experiences about the conduct of
elections with other countries.

In the end, I once again extend my felicitations
to the EC, for their achievements
in the 60 years of their existence. I am
confident that the electoral process and
democracy in India will continue to be
strong and vibrant.”
Pratibha Devisingh Patil, then
president
– – –
“To fulfill its mandate the EC has been
adapting itself in a remarkable fashion to
changes in society, polity and technology.

It was said in the constituent assembly
of India that democracy was only a top
dressing on an Indian soil that was essentially
undemocratic. The EC deserves
the nation’s appreciation and gratitude for
making our soil more fertile for the seed
of democracy.
Hamid Ansari, vice president
– – –
“The EC is one of the pillars of Indian
democracy. In the past 60 years, it has
acquitted itself exceptionally well in
the onerous task of conducting elections
to our parliament and to the state
legislatures.

The EC has also been quick in keeping
itself abreast of technological changes
and in introducing improvements in the
electoral process. Electoral rolls are not
printed anymore; they are computerised.
A large proportion of our voters have
voter identity cards, proceedings in sensitive
polling booths are video-graphed,
political parties have free time on national
television. Ballot papers and ballot boxes
have been replaced by electronic voting
machines. Results now get declared in one
day. Each of these changes was, in some
sense, a breakthrough. These improvements
have contributed not only to the
speedy conduct of elections but also to
enhancing the transparency and credibility
of the whole electoral process. I once
again compliment the EC and all those
who are associated with the good work it
has done all these years.

Once again, I would like to wish the EC all
the best in its endeavours. I am sure that
the commission will continue to serve our
nation with commitment and honour, as it
has done in the past.”
Manmohan Singh, prime minister
– – –

These are the words of the three
highest functionaries of the
government of India on the occasion
of the diamond jubilee
celebrations of the EC on January
25, 2010. What about the deeds? Let
us start with the latest. A “deputy secretary
to the government of India, ministry
of law & justice, legislative department”
submitted an affidavit in the supreme
court on March 13 in an ongoing case
known as Ashok Shankarrao Chavan versus
Madavrao Kinhalkar and others, special
leave petition (C) No. 29,882 of 2011.
The operative paragraph of the affidavit
reads as follows: “That I am advised to
say that a plain reading of section 10A of
the Representation of People Act, 1951
[RP Act] and Rule 89 of the Conduct of
Election Rules, 1961 indicates that power
of the EC to disqualify a person arises
only in the event of failure to lodge an
account of election expenses and not for
any other reasons including the correctness
or otherwise of such accounts.”
On the face of it, this sounds very innocuous;
but read what a former chief
election commissioner (CEC) writes
about it: “Politicians everywhere are
known to indulge in doublespeak and
our politicians are no exception. But
some recent pronouncements of our law
minister only show that our politicians
may have very few serious rivals in this
sport. Not long ago, the minister was all
praise for the election commission of India’s
real-time and effective monitoring
of election expenses. Now the same minister
has told the supreme court that the
EC is not concerned with the correctness
or otherwise of the account of election
expenses submitted by a candidate. In
other words, the government wants the
commission to do an outstanding nonjob!”
(N Gopalaswami, ‘Doublespeak on
electoral reforms’, The Hindu, April 16).
Analysing the issue in depth, he goes
on to say, “Whatever the reason, it is
clear that in advancing this plea and
trying to whittle down the powers of
the EC, the government, contrary to its
oft-repeated vehement concerns and
commitment to curb money power and
paid news in elections, is actually intent
on perpetuating the same by making
the EC powerless to act even when the
submitted accounts of election expenses
are absurd in the extreme. That political
parties and politicians are reluctant to
initiate any electoral reform is no longer
a secret. But a government working to
undermine the EC is the news now or a
‘scandal’ as The Hindu editorial called it.”
Why would a person who headed the
EC from June 30, 2006 to April 20, 2009
be so harsh in his assessment? Let us
look at the facts.
The EC, acting on a complaint that
Ashok Chavan, the then chief minister
of Maharashtra, had indulged in ‘paid
news’ during the 2009 elections to the
state assembly (that is, he had paid some
newspapers to publish good things about
him), but had not shown those monies
in the statement of his election expenses
that he submitted to the EC, had issued a
notice to Chavan that since he had filed
an incorrect statement of expenses, he is
liable to be disqualified and his election
was liable to be set aside under section
10A of the RP Act.

Section 10A reads as follows: “If the EC
is satisfied that a person—(a) has failed
to lodge an account of election expenses
within the time and in the manner required
by or under this Act; and (b) has
no good reason or justification for the
failure, the EC shall, by order published
in the official gazette, declare him to be
disqualified and any such person shall be
disqualified for a period of three years
from the date of the order.”
It is true that the ‘letter of the law’ of
section 10A says that the EC can disqualify
a candidate if s/he does not “lodge
an account of election expenses within
the time and in the manner required
by or under this Act; and … has no good
reason or justification for the failure (to
lodge the account)” but is the ‘letter of
the law’ the only thing about a law, or is
there something called the ‘spirit of the
law’ too? No less an institution than the
supreme court seems to think there is.
Spirit of the law
Two appeals were filed in the supreme
court against the judgment and order of
the high court of Karnataka, announced
on September 27, 1991 in election petition
No. 15 of 1990. The appeals pertained
to the election held in November
1989 to the Nagamangala assembly
constituency, where LR Shivaramagowda
and TM Chandrashekar were among the
candidates. The supreme court judgment
is known as LR Shivaramagowda, etc.
vs TM Chandrashekar etc. announced
on December 1, 1998, and is cited as AIR
1999 SC 252. The bench dealt specifically
with this very issue: whether section 10A
authorises the EC to disqualify a person
if s/he lodges an account within time but
the account is not correct or fails to present
the true and correct picture of the
expenses. This is what the court said in
para 22 of the judgment:
“Referring to Section 10(A) of the Act,
which enables the EC to disqualify a person
who had failed to lodge an account of
election expenses within the time and in
the manner required by or under the Act
and had no good reason or justification
for the failure, he (the lawyer) contended
that the said Section provides only for a
situation arising out of failure to lodge an
account and not a situation arising from
a failure to maintain true and correct
accounts. We are unable to accept this
contention. In our opinion, Sub-section
(a) of Section 10(A) takes care of the situation
inasmuch as it provides for lodging
an account of election expenses in the
manner required by or under the Act.
Section 77(2) provides that the accounts
shall contain such particulars as may
be prescribed. Rule 86 of the conduct of
Election Rules provides for the particulars
to be set out in the account. The said
Rule prescribes that a voucher shall be
obtained for every item of expenditure
and for lodging all vouchers along with
the account of the election expenses.
Rule 89 provides that the district election
officer shall report to the EC the name
of each contesting candidate, whether
such candidate has lodged his account
of election expenses and if so the date
on which such account has been lodged
and whether in his opinion such account
has been lodged within the time and
in the manner required by the Act and
the rules. That Rule enables the election
commission to decide whether a contesting
candidate has failed to lodge his
account of election expenses within the
time and in the manner required by the
Act after adopting the procedure mentioned
therein. If an account is found to
be incorrect or untrue by the EC after
enquiry Under Rule 89, it could be held
that the candidate had failed to lodge his
account within the meaning of Section
10(A) and the election commission may

disqualify the said person. Hence, we do
not find any substance in the argument
of learned counsel for the first respondent”
(Emphasis added).
It seems unbelievable that the law
ministry should be unaware of the
decision of the supreme court on the
very issue on which it was filing an affidavit
to the same court!
Going back to the analysis of the
affidavit of the government of India,
Gopalaswami goes on to write, “If the
EC’s powers are curbed, the whole
activity of regulating election expenditure
will come to a standstill with
none having the authority to question
and discipline the wrongdoers.
If the government is aware of this,
has thought about it, and has yet gone
ahead to seek through its affidavit to
the supreme court a ‘plain reading’ of
the provisions of Section 10 A, a euphemism
for negating the law laid down by
the 1999 supreme court judgment, it is
nothing but reprehensible” (emphasis
added).
Gopalaswami, being a seasoned bureaucrat,
is extremely careful in using
the qualifier “if” about the government
being “aware”, having “thought
about it”, and “yet gone ahead”, but
doubting the government’s awareness,
thinking capacity, and decision-making
capabilities does not come easily to
me since I have the highest regard for
the government’s deliberative capacity.
I therefore have no doubt that the
submission of this affidavit is a well
thought-out action. I, of course, completely
agree with Gopalaswami that
“it is nothing but reprehensible”.
The sad part is that the election was
held in October 2009 and the legal
wrangling is still going on in April
2013 with not much hope of the matter
being decided before five years are
over in September 2014, and Ashok
Chavan would have served his full
term as an MLA. This is despite the
fact that Section 86(7) of the RP Act
specifically mentions: “Every election
petition shall be tried as expeditiously
as possible and endeavour shall be
made to conclude the trial within six
months from the date on which the
election petition is presented to the
high court for trial.”

disqualify the said person. Hence, we do
not find any substance in the argument
of learned counsel for the first respondent”
(Emphasis added).
It seems unbelievable that the law
ministry should be unaware of the
decision of the supreme court on the
very issue on which it was filing an affidavit
to the same court!
Going back to the analysis of the
affidavit of the government of India,
Gopalaswami goes on to write, “If the
EC’s powers are curbed, the whole
activity of regulating election expenditure
will come to a standstill with
none having the authority to question
and discipline the wrongdoers.
If the government is aware of this,
has thought about it, and has yet gone
ahead to seek through its affidavit to
the supreme court a ‘plain reading’ of
the provisions of Section 10 A, a euphemism
for negating the law laid down by
the 1999 supreme court judgment, it is
nothing but reprehensible” (emphasis
added).
Gopalaswami, being a seasoned bureaucrat,
is extremely careful in using
the qualifier “if” about the government
being “aware”, having “thought
about it”, and “yet gone ahead”, but
doubting the government’s awareness,
thinking capacity, and decision-making
capabilities does not come easily to
me since I have the highest regard for
the government’s deliberative capacity.
I therefore have no doubt that the
submission of this affidavit is a well
thought-out action. I, of course, completely
agree with Gopalaswami that
“it is nothing but reprehensible”.
The sad part is that the election was
held in October 2009 and the legal
wrangling is still going on in April
2013 with not much hope of the matter
being decided before five years are
over in September 2014, and Ashok
Chavan would have served his full
term as an MLA. This is despite the
fact that Section 86(7) of the RP Act
specifically mentions: “Every election
petition shall be tried as expeditiously
as possible and endeavour shall be
made to conclude the trial within six
months from the date on which the
election petition is presented to the
high court for trial.”

But is it the first, and the only, time
that this kind of reprehensible action
has taken place? Sadly, no. Let us
recount some earlier instances.
Past precedents
The Delhi high court, responding
to a public interest litigation by the
Association for Democratic Reforms
(ADR), ordered the ECI in November
2001 [2001 AIR (Del) 126] to collect
affidavits from candidates contesting
elections declaring their criminal,
financial, and educational antecedents,
and to disseminate the information
contained therein. The EC had
no objection or problem in doing
that but the Union of India did. The
Union of India filed a special leave
petition (SLP) in the supreme court
to prevent the EC from doing what
the high court had ordered. When
the supreme court upheld the decision
of the high court, in judgment,
(2002) 5 SCC 294, delivered on May
2, 2002, and the ECI issued Order
No.3/ER/2002/JS-II/Vol-111, on June
28, 2002, to implement the supreme
court’s judgment, the government
of India got the president to issue
an ordinance on August 24, 2002, to
prevent the implementation of the
supreme court’s judgment and the
ECI’s orders. It was only when the
ordinance was challenged in the
supreme court in writ petition (civil)
No. 515 of 2002, and the supreme
court declared it unconstitutional,
“illegal, null and void” on March 13,
2003, that the submission of affidavits
was accepted, and followed, by
the government of India and the
political parties.
This is not all. The then CEC, TS
Krishnamurthy wrote a letter no. 3/
ER/2004 to the PM, on July 5, 2004,
detailing 22 proposals for electoral
reforms. Part of what he wrote is as
follows:
“My predecessors have been very
regularly addressing the government
in the last six years on different subjects
requiring reform. Certain new
issues obviously have come up based
on the experiences gathered by us in
the recent past.
“I enclose two sets of notes on areas
of immediate concern to us in the

commission requiring your urgent attention.
In the first part, we have set out
certain urgent proposals for electoral
reforms in areas that have not been
taken up in the past by the commission
and which have arisen
due to implementation of certain
laws enacted or based on certain
directions given by the supreme
court and the high courts. In the
second part, we reiterate some
of the pending proposals that
remain unresolved and which in
no way are less important than the
proposals in the first part.
“I, on behalf of the commission,
would urge the government to give
immediate consideration to these issues
and if possible, undertake necessary
legislation so that the same can be made
effective well before the next tranche
of legislative assembly elections due in
some states.”
Guess what happened to the CEC’s letter?
Not even an acknowledgement was
received from the prime minister’s office
(PMO)! A presumably frustrated EC put
the letter and the proposals in public
domain on July 30, 2004 in the form of
a booklet (see eci.nic.in/eci_main/PROPOSED_
ELECTORAL_REFORMS.pdf).
No transparency in party funding
There is of course more but let me give
just two more recent examples.
It was reported in the print media on
March 26, 2013 that the government had
blocked the election commission’s move
to make party funding more transparent.
A closer look at this incident revealed the
following.
The constitution has given, under
Article 324, plenary powers to the EC
for the superintendence, direction, and
control of the conduct of all elections to
parliament and the state legislatures.
The detailed provisions are contained in
the RP Act. The detailed procedures for
conducting elections are laid down in the
Conduct of Election (CoE) Rules, 1961 formulated
and notified by the government
of India under the RP Act.
The government of the day decided in
2003 that companies should be permitted
to make donations to political parties.
For this purpose, the RP Act was amended
on September 11, 2003 by inserting
Section 29B permitting a political party
to receive “contributions voluntarily
offered to it by any person or company
other than a government company”.
Simultaneously another section, 29C, was
also added which required every political
party to submit to the EC a statement
of all donations above `20,000 “in such
form as may be prescribed”. The law
ministry prescribed Form 24A for such
reports. The income tax law had been
amended earlier, on April 1, 1979, by
adding section 13A, saying that donations
received by political parties were
100 percent exempt from income tax.
ADR filed an application under the RTI
Act on February 28, 2007, seeking copies
of income tax returns of various political
parties. On the denial of the request
in the original application and also the
rejection of the first appeal, ADR filed a
second appeal to the central information
commission (CIC). The CIC in its order of
April 29, 2008, permitted the tax returns
of political parties to be made public.
Subsequently, using the RTI Act again,
ADR obtained copies of the statement of
donations received by political parties
from the EC to which political parties
have to submit these under Section 29C
of the RP Act. A comparison of the total
income of political parties as mentioned
in their income tax returns with the
donations received by them as reported
in Form 24A revealed that the statement
of donations accounted for only about 20
percent of the total income reported by
political parties. The source of 80 percent
of their income was unknown. Several
parties claimed that this share comes
through donations of less than `20,000,
often in cash or through what is called
“sale of coupons”, of which no record
is kept.
When this came to the notice of the
EC through press reports, it wrote
to the law ministry on September
28, 2012, asking it to make Form 24A
more transparent about contributions.
The ministry’s response, on November
05, 2012, was that the EC had given “no
compelling reasons” to necessitate such
amendments. The EC responded on December
10, 2012, reminding the ministry
that “the objective of filing contribution
reports is to bring transparency in the
funds received”. EC also pointed out that
the proposed modifications would make
political funding more comprehensible
to citizens. One of the suggested modifications
was that the total funds received
by political parties be also declared, not
just those received in tranches of more
than `20,000.
The ministry responded after more
than two months, on February 18, 2013,
reproducing clauses (a) and (b) of subsection
1 of Section 29C of the RP Act,
and saying, “In view of the said provision
proposed at Sl. No. 6(b) of Part-A of
the proposed Form 24A is not in conformity
with the aforesaid provision. The
aforesaid issue was discussed with the
officers of ECI on February 13, 2013 and
they were (sic) agreed to get the matter
reexamined and relooked and get
back to this department. It is, therefore,
requested that the issue may be reexamined
and the considered view of the EC
may be conveyed to the department at
the earliest.”
“Sl. No. 6(b) of Part-A of the proposed
Form 24A” requires the following information
to be provided by political
parties:
“(i) Total contributions received from
all sources permissible under Section
29B of the RP Act,
(ii) Out of (i) above, total amount
of contributions received in excess of
`20,000 from a person or company as per
Section 29C of the RP Act, 

received
below `20,000 from a person or
company.”
Each of the above is proposed to be provided
under three heads, ‘Cash’, ‘Cheque/
Draft/RTBS’, and ‘Total’.
As an explanation of why this is needed,
the EC had stated the following in its
letter of December 10, 2012:
“There is no scope in the existing
format to provide for the total amount
of contribution received by the political
party during the year. Information
only in respect of contributions exceeding
`20,000 with names and addresses
of such donors is provided to EC and
this makes it difficult for reconciliation
of the amount relating to the contributions
received exceeding `20,000 and
the total amount received. The proposed
format provided for summary information
about total amount of contributions
received and the total amount of
contributions exceeding `20,000 in the
Part ‘A’ of the format. This will help the
public to have a clear picture about the
total contributions received by the political
party and amount received from
donors, making contributions, more than
`20,000.”
The EC responded yet again, on March
26, 2013, countering the ministry’s letter
of February 18, 2013, as follows:
“2. In this context, clauses (a) and (b) of
sub-section (1) of Section 29C has been
cited. I am directed to inform that if this
is the only intention of the legislators,
then there would not have been subsection
(2) which provides, ‘the report
under sub-section shall be in such form
as may be prescribed’ (Emphasis added).
Moreover, sub-section (1) of Section 169
of RP Act, 1951 provides, ‘The central
government may, after consulting the
EC by notification in the official gazette,
make rules for carrying out the purposes
of this Act’ and in clause (aaa) of section
169 (2) further expands the scope
while mentioning, ‘In particular, and
without prejudice to the generality of the
forgoing power, such rules may provide
for all or any of the following matters,
namely: – … (aaa) the form of contribution
report’. Therefore, the modification
proposed by the commission are (sic) as
per the law.
“3. I am further directed to inform that
Section 29 was amended in the year
2003 to add Sections 29B and 29C and
the statement of objects and reasons to
the amendments as stated by the then
law ministry is ‘The bill seeks to bring
transparency in the funding of the political
parties by the corporate sector and
by other persons by streamlining and
promoting the donations received by the
political parties for elections by giving
suitable tax-exemptions and withdrawal
thereof in specified circumstances’. The
existing form 24A does not serve the
intended purpose of bringing transparency
in the funding, as many political
parties evade filing of contribution
report inspite of raising contributions
in crores. The apparent logic extended
by such parties is that though they have
raised amount in crores, all contributions
are below `20,000 from any person.
The existing form gives them a scope to
evade compliance with the spirit behind
the law, as it does not provide for total
amount of contributions received by the
political party. Therefore, for transparency
of contributions received by the
political parties, the total amount figure
is necessary for the public to understand
the contribution pattern in its totality. It
is further informed that for clear understanding
of the public, total amount of
contribution received is very vital information,
without which the contribution
reports, as submitted by the political parties
in the existing format is incomplete.
The proposed modifications in para 6 (b)
only asks for the total amount of contributions
received and not the names and
addresses of the donors, for corresponding
total amount. Moreover, the heading
of Section 29C of RP Act reads ‘declaration
of donation received by political
parties’ and the total donation figure is
filed by political parties along with the
income tax return before the income tax
department, which is made available to
the public under the RTI Act. Therefore it
cannot be said that the proposed form is
not in conformity with clauses (a) and (b)
of section 29C (1) of the RP Act.”
The above details should make it clear 

to the reader whose heart lies where. Not
unexpectedly, the law ministry is taking
a narrow, legalistic view and is overlooking
the broader purpose of the legislation.
It would still be legalistic, but more
progressive, if it initiated the process of
amending Section 29C appropriately if
in its opinion that was required. But the
law ministry and the government do
not appear to see anything wrong in 80
percent of the income of political parties
being shrouded in mystery, even if that
spreads scepticism about the way political
parties function.
Gender and electoral reforms
The second recent example is from January,
which has now been made poignant
by the passing away of justice JS Verma
on April 22. On January 23, 2013, the
justice Verma committee released its report.
It stated that electoral reforms were
necessary “to the achievement of gender
justice and the prevention of sexual offences
against women”. It then made
proposals in this regard, including stripping
the legislature of persons who have
criminal cases pending against them,
proper scrutiny of affidavits, transparency
of electoral and political funding.
Soon after it was made public, the union
law minister said the report would be
referred to the law commission for its
views and recommendations.
What the law minister did not seem
to know was that the 170th report of
the law commission titled “Reform of
the Electoral Laws” has been with his
ministry since May 1999 when it was
submitted to one of his predecessors,
Ram Jethmalani, under “D.O. No.6(3)
(35)/95-LC(LS)” of “29/05/99/09.06.99” by
justice BP Jeevan Reddy, the then chairman
of the law commission of India.
But then, if the law ministry can forget
the supreme court ruling on the same
issue that it submits an affidavit to the
apex court, how can we expect the law
minister to know what reports are lying
with his ministry?
Since I quoted a former CEC in the first
example of a “reprehensible” deed, let
me end with another former CEC, SY
Quraishi, who was personally involved
in extensive and repeated discussions on
electoral reforms with the then law minister,
M Veerappa Moily, before Salman
Khurshid replaced the latter. Quraishi 

2012, before demitting office on June 10.
Some excerpts from the letter, accessed
by filing an RTI application, given below
exemplify the frustration of those trying
to improve the electoral system in the
country:
“Hence allow me sir, to place before you
the commission’s deep disappointment
over the fact that a necessary legislation
in this regard is yet to be materialised
despite an assurance given to us by the
hon’ble minister of law and justice.”
“However, the quality of our elections
often gets questioned on account of certain
weaknesses in our electoral process.
The commission’s reform proposals have
always aimed at addressing this predicament.
Though certain minor reforms
have been adopted by government and
parliament, the substantial ones have
been actually left out allowing the allegations
that politicians are not keen
about the reforms because of their vested
interest.”
“I would like to bring to your kind
notice that some proposals which are
of technical nature and require only
amendment of rules within the competence
of the ministry of law and justice,
have also been pending for a long time.
This raises questions about the lack of political
will, which causes us deep distress”
(italics added).
Of course, the very latest person to be
frustrated in this saga of political and
electoral reforms is our vice president
who, in his capacity as the chairman of
the Rajya Sabha, made some proposals
that might have enabled the upper house
to function with some semblance of normalcy.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, all
the proposals were turned down by all
the political parties!
What does all of the above mean? Making
the smallest dent in the functioning
of our electoral and political system is,
and will remain, an uphill battle even for
a constitutional authority such as the EC.
It is a battle in which only the diehard
and foolhardy should engage. But it is
also a battle that cannot be given up if
India has to function as a functioning democracy
with a modicum of reasonable
governance. 
Chhokar is a former professor, dean, and director
In-charge of IIM, Ahmedabad. He now
lives and works in Delhi

EC and poll clean-up

THE CASE
Former Maharashtra
CM Ashok Chavan is
accused of having
indulged in ‘paid
news’ during the
2009 elections to
the state assembly. He of course did
not include the money he spent on
getting good publicity in the statement
of poll expenses submitted to the EC.
The point is, when you see different
newspapers writing word-to-word the
same nice things about Chavan, you
know he has paid for it. Then it has
to reflect in his expenses. If it does
not, shouldn’t EC disqualify him and
set aside his election? That’s what EC
wants to do.
LITERALLY SPEAKING
But the law ministry
has stuck to a literal
interpretation of
the law, which
says as long as
the candidate has
filed a statement expenses, there is
nothing wrong, and EC can’t go into
checking those expenses. That’s
literal, but if you stretch that logic,
the law ministry’s argument would
mean that even if a candidate files a
statement saying he spent one rupee,
EC has to just accept his word.
PRECEDENT
Trouble is, the
supreme court in
1998 upheld a view
that the EC has now
taken. So, the law
ministry is arguing
against the previous judgment of the
apex court.
WHY
– To shield Ashok Chavan
–  More importantly, to curtain EC’s
owers to clean up the election
process.

———————————

“Making
the smallest
dent in the functioning
of our electoral and political
system is, and will remain, an
uphill battle even for a constitutional
authority such as the EC. It is a battle
in which only the diehard and foolhardy
should engage. But it is also a battle
that cannot be given up if India
has to function as a functioning
democracy with a modicum of
reasonable governance.”

————————————

Former CECs have fought for poll reforms – but in vain

N Gopalaswami on
the govt stance in the
Chavan case: “If the
EC’s powers are curbed,
the whole activity of
regulating election
expenditure will come
to a standstill with none
having the authority to
question and discipline
the wrongdoers.”

TS Krishnamurthy
wrote to the PM in
July 2004, pressing
for electoral reforms.
He did not get even
an acknowledgement
from the PMO.

SY Quraishi wrote to
the law minister last

year, spoke of EC’s
“deep disappointment”,
allegations that
“politicians are not
keen about the reforms
because of their vested
interest” and “questions
about the lack of political
will, which causes us
deep distress”.

————————————–

Congress or BJP, when it comes to
clean-up they are all unanimous

NO NEED TO KNOW YOUR CANDIDATE
In 2001 (during the NDA
regime), Association
for Democratic Reforms
(ADR) had this idea that
voters should know the
candidates well, and thus the
candidates’ affidavits declaring their
criminal, financial, and educational
antecedents, should be made public.
The Delhi high court had no problem,
and the EC had no problem either. But
the government had. It went to the
apex court to prevent EC from doing
so. When the supreme court rejected
the petition and EC went ahead,
the BJP-led NDA government got
the president to issue an ordinance
on August 24, 2002 to prevent the
implementation of the supreme
court’s judgment and the ECI’s
orders. Strange that a government
would go to this extent to stop us
from knowing who we are voting
for! It was only when the ordinance
was challenged in the supreme
court in writ petition (civil) No. 515
of 2002, and the supreme court
declared it unconstitutional, “illegal,
null and void” on March 13, 2003,
that the submission of affidavits
was accepted, and followed, by the
government of India and the political
parties.
NO NEED TO KNOW PARTY FUNDING
The UPA government has
followed it up by blocking
all efforts to let us know
from where political parties
get their funds. Parties
today show their funding
to EC in a form which is
structured in such a way that the
sources of 80 percent of the funds are
not disclosed. EC has been pressing
the law ministry to make changes in
the form and force parties to tell us
from who all is funding them. The
law ministry has said there are “no
compelling reasons” to do so.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

    About

    This blog contains Jagdeep S. Chhokar’s views, opinions, and comments on variety of issues.

    RSS

    Subscribe Via RSS

    • Subscribe with Bloglines
    • Add your feed to Newsburst from CNET News.com
    • Subscribe in Google Reader
    • Add to My Yahoo!
    • Subscribe in NewsGator Online
    • The latest comments to all posts in RSS

    Meta

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...