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How can electoral funding be reformed?

The Election Commission is already fully empowered to effect reforms related to electoral funding without the need for new legislation, according to a study

New Delhi: The controversy around electoral expenditure and funding has resurfaced.

The government’s move to introduce electoral bonds, which provide political donors with anonymity, has generated further controversy with critics calling for electoral reforms and new legislation.

V. Bhaskar, a former chief electoral officer of Andhra Pradesh, provides some insights on how these reforms can happen, in a study published in the Economic and Political Weekly.

Bhaskar argues that the Election Commission of India (EC) is empowered by existing laws to implement reforms related to electoral funding and there is no need for any legislative amendment.

He points to Section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which requires political parties to publicly disclose donors for all contributions exceeding 20,000.

Yet this rarely happens in practice.

A 2016 study by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) found that sources of funding were unknown for more than 75% of donations to six major national parties.

In light of this, the former chief electoral officer says that the Representation of the People Act has to be enforced so that the identities of all those donating more than 20,000 are disclosed, with Election Commission deregistering political parties that do not adhere to this.

All parties should be brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act, and political party accounts made public after a firm, selected by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), has approved them, he says.

It is imperative that the EC follows through for the sanctity of the electoral process, says the author.

Also read: Black Money in Politics: How the Election Commission must seize the day

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