The Election Commission has rejected a key proposal to check corruption in electoral politics — state funding of elections — saying it will not prohibit use of black money and has instead sought powers to debar candidates found falsifying expenditure reports.
President Pratibha Singh Patil had described state funding of elections, first suggested in late 1990s, as an effective tool to check corruption in elections and said it was under consideration of a Group of Ministers on corruption headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.Even as the GoM is discussing the issue, the commission has told the government that state funding will be make the electoral process unfair as smaller parties and independents will be left out and will find it difficult to compete. The government has proposed to bear the cost of elections only of national and state parties.
“State funding will not work in the complex Indian electoral system,” a senior commission official told HT .
Another drawback highlighted by the commission was that state fund does not provide a mechanism to prevent candidates from spending their own money on the elections. And, the problem of use of black money, said to be a main malpractice in 2009 general elections, will remain.
As much as Rs 90 crore of black money was seized by the enforcement agencies across India during 2009 elections. The way forward, according to the commission, is a power to debar a candidate using money power to win elections from contesting. The commission has sought amendment to section 8 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, which as of now allows debarring a candidate from elections, only if he or she is convicted for a jail term of two years or more.
“Most candidates undervalue expenditure in the reports submitted to the returning officer. We cannot do anything much, except issuing a notice. We should have power to act against those who submit a false expenditure report,” the official said.
The commission officials say they have put a system in place to enforce new powers, if granted, with expenditure monitoring unit having Income Tax officials in each district.
It worked in Bihar assembly elections, where the commission issued 87 notices to candidates for not mentioning expenditure on paid news in their reports.
As a result, 17 candidates submitted corrected version by including money paid for news published in local newspapers as electoral expenditure. A similar system will also work during elections in give states in April, another commission official said.