The chief election commissioner (CEC) has asked the income tax department to stop giving exemption to political parties that don’t contest elections because many of these outfits could be fronts to siphon off black money.
Political funding in India remains a grey area, with most parties skirting disclosures under rules that make naming the source mandatory only when donations cross Rs 20,000. They are also exempt from income tax.
The election commission (EC) suspects many registered parties, which exist only on paper, might be taking advantage of these legal loopholes to route dodgy cash.
“There are over 1,900 registered political parties in India. After every two days a political party is registered. They hardly contest elections. Many of them are used as conduits for siphoning off black money,” chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi said on Wednesday.
Only 400 of them contested polls during 2005-15, he said.
The commission has asked chief electoral officers of all states to inform it about such parties.
Zaidi demanded total transparency in funding of parties as recommended by the law commission, saying only 20% or Rs 20 crore, whichever is less, of a party’s fund could be allowed to remain anonymous.
There are over 1,900 registered political parties in India. After every two days a political party is registered. They hardly contest elections. Many of them are used as conduits for siphoning off black money.
Lamenting that the EC could register political parties but didn’t have any power to de-register them, Zaidi said the commission has written to the law ministry on a series of electoral reforms, including prevention of abuse of money, transparency in funding of political parties, decriminalisation of politics and making paid news an offence.
The CEC said the representation of people act (RPA) should be amended to give powers to the commission to countermand an election on the ground of distribution of money to unduly influence the electorate, or politicians bribing voters.
“In the 1980s, booth-capturing was a big problem but we managed to check it after Section 58A was added to the RPA giving power to the commission to countermand or cancel elections. We want Section 58B to be added for misuse of money during polls,” Zaidi said.
The commission had to use its plenary powers under Article 324 of the Constitution in May 2016 to cancel elections in two Tamil Nadu assembly seats.
“Every year (around) 2.5 crore young people cross the age of 18 and become eligible to vote. But the law allows their registration only once a year on January 1. Due to this provision, crores of eligible youth are deprived of their right to vote,” he said.
“In Jammu and Kashmir, electoral rolls are revised four times a year since 1957. Why can’t it be done in the rest of India? It can be done at least twice a year on January 1 and July 1.” The CEC also pitched for a rule to set aside a candidate’s election if that person is found furnishing an affidavit with false information