Sunday, April 30, 2017

Modi govt rejected anti-graft law plea thrice; Election Commission seized Rs 350 crore in recent assembly polls

By Our Representative
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dr Nasim Ahmad Zaidi has revealed that. despite noteban, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had seized over Rs 350 crore during the recently concluded five state assembly elections, which is “three times higher than what was seized in the 2012 assembly elections”, though adding, this is only “tip of the iceberg.”
Regretting sharp rise in money power in elections, Dr Zaidi, who was addressing the 13th Annual National Conference on Electoral and Political Reforms, organized by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), at Punjab University, Chandigarh, said, “We should formulate a strong anti-bribery law or legal framework”, and ensure its “strict enforcement” on the ground.”
Stressing on the need for inculcating “ethical voting practices”, Dr Zaidi said that the ECI has made recommendations to the Law Ministry to amend the Representative of People (RP) Act by inserting a new section 58B, “which would empower the Commission to countermand elections based on credible evidence relating to widespread bribery”.
However, he regretted, the law ministry of the Narendra Modi government rejected the proposal thrice over the last one year. Yet, he said, the he ECI would push the proposal in the same on lines of Section 58 of RP Act, which deals with countermanding of elections due to booth capturing.
“The CEC has proposed that bribing of voters should also be made a cognizable offence”, Dr Zaidi said, addding, ”The CEC observed that there has been steep rise in the assets of the candidates seeking re-election and that the electors have every right to know the causes behind this sharp increase in assets.”
Expressing concern over the way the way electoral reforms were introduced by the government, Dr Zaidi said, “By not reducing the limit of anonymity from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2000, the transparency has not been brought about”, calling contributions made in the form of “electoral bonds” as a “retrograde step”, as they “would not be a part of the contributions report of the political parties.”
“The ECI has also recommended the amendment of Form 26, where they would be required to add a column for declaring the details of sources of income of candidates and their spouses”, he said, adding, “Multi-dimensional approach needs to be taken to curb the misuse of money power in elections.”
Already, Dr. Zaidi said, the ECI has taken several steps to ensure “transparency in declaration by candidates on any disqualifications at the time of their nominations”, adding, “The ECI has amended the rules to include declaration of disqualifications in nomination forms as mandatory.”
He said, “This includes holding of office of profit, insolvency, allegiance to a foreign country and any disqualifications incurred under Section 8A of RP Act. This also includes grounds of corruption and, most importantly, any substantive contracts with the government which the candidate might not have disclosed at the time of filing their nomination papers.”
Dr. Zaidi said, political parties under the current legal framework are loosely governed, be it registration, funding, expenditure etc. Regarding election financing, he said that it should rest on four pillars. 1) Laying down the expenditure limit of candidates and also of political parties, 2) Disclosure requirements for more transparency, 3) Compliance of disclosure requirements and 4) Penalties for non- adherence.”

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