Supreme Court directs political parties to furnish receipts of electoral bonds and donors’ identity details to EC

The Supreme Court Friday directed all political parties to furnish receipts of political funding received through electoral bonds and details of identity of donors in a sealed cover to the Election Commission.

In an interim order, the apex court also directed all political parties to provide details of the amount of the bond and bank account of donors by May 30 to the poll panel.

The apex court said it would examine in detail changes made in Income Tax law, electoral law and banking laws to make them in consonance with the electoral bond scheme and ensure balance does not tilt in favour of any political party.

It also directed the Finance Ministry to reduce the window of purchasing electoral bonds from 10 days to five days in April-May and said it would fix a date later for final disposal of the petition filed by an NGO.

The NGO has challenged the validity of the scheme and sought that either the issuance of electoral bonds be stayed or names of donors be made public to ensure transparency in the poll process.

The order was pronounced by a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

The government had notified the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018 on January 2, 2018.

As per provisions of the scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by a person, who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.

A person being an individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.

Only political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and which secured not less than one per cent of votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive electoral bonds.

As per the notification, electoral bonds shall be encashed by an eligible political party only through a bank account with an authorised bank.

The Centre and the Election Commission had taken contrary stands in the Supreme Court on Wednesday over political funding with the government wanting to maintain anonymity of donors of electoral bonds and the poll panel batting for revealing names of donors for transparency.

The bench on Thursday had reserved the order, saying if the identity of the purchasers of electoral bonds meant for transparent political funding was not known, then efforts of the government to curtail black money in elections would be “futile”.

The Centre, through Attorney General K K Venugopal, had vehemently supported the scheme saying the purpose behind it is to eliminate the use of black money in elections and asked the court not to interfere with it at this stage and examine whether it has worked or not only after the elections.

However, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR)’, had said the scheme has nothing to do with the effort to curb black money and it opens the banking means also to donate by remaining anonymous.

During in an earlier hearing, Bhushan had claimed that the party in power was the major beneficiary of the scheme.

The EC, represented by senior lawyer Rakesh Dwivedi, had opposed Centre’s submissions and said secrecy allowed in the electoral bonds scheme “legalises anonymity”.

The bench had also observed, “If the identity of purchasers of bonds is not known then there will be greater ramification on the Income Tax law and all your (government’s) efforts to curtail black money will be futile”.

Venugopal had also said the anonymity of donors of electoral bonds is to be maintained for various reasons such as fear of repercussions on a firm or an individual if the other political party or group wins.

The Attorney General had also said: “Historically, black money is used in elections. This is a reformatory steps. The scheme can be examined after the elections.”

In its affidavit, the Centre had said electoral bonds “attempt at bringing greater transparency, ensuring KYC compliance and keeping an audit trail in comparison to the earlier opaque system of cash donations.

The Right To Know About Criminal Contestants.

National Election Watch (NEW) and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) have analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 8163 candidates out of 8230 candidates who have contested in the Lok Sabha 2014 Elections and discovered:

Candidates with Criminal Cases:

Out of the 8163 candidates analysed, 1398 (17%) candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves. Out of 7810 candidates analysed during Lok Sabha 2009 elections, 1158 (15%) candidates had declared criminal cases against themselves.

Candidates with Serious Criminal Cases:

889 (11%) candidates have declared serious criminal cases including cases related to murder, attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping, crimes against women etc. Out of 7810 candidates analysed during Lok Sabha 2009 elections, 608 (8%) candidates had declared serious criminal cases against themselves. 2208 (27%) Crorepati Candidates, Rs. 3.16 crores Average Assets of Candidates.

All the voters now know that how many criminals are representing the people in Parliament and State Assemblies, thanks to the spirited democratic organizations like ADR, intellectual leaders like Prof Trilochan Sastry, socially relevant lawyers like PP Rao and Pro-people judges like P Venkatram Reddy. Because of their fight against entire political community in India, voter’s right to information about contestants became an important constitutional right today. These three personalities along with their co-petitioners, advocates and judges.

In the context of International Women’s’ Day on 8th March ADR and NEW reported that only 9% women MLAs and MPs across the country in 2019. Hundreds of men who declared cases of crimes against women against them in their affidavits were given tickets by key political parties, with BJP giving the highest number of tickets at 54. According to the report, out of 1,642 (34%) MPs/ MLAs analysed with declared criminal cases, 52 have declared cases related to crimes against women. The second highest number of candidates, i.e. 37 accused in crimes against women were given tickets by BSP, followed by 30 candidates from INC had contested for Lok/Rajya Sabha and State Assemblies.

Criminality is perhaps the qualification and quality to represent the people and govern the nation! Neither any politician nor any political party was interested in telling the people about their candidates. No party is ready to share the criterion for selection of their candidate who is expected to represent the people and rule them. No party feels ashamed of to offer ticket to a person who crossed over to their party a night before. Some leaders wait with “B” form ready in hand for disgruntled leaders and persons, who could not procure ticket and hence defect into their party. Shameless! Whether BJP or Congress, Communists or others, the parties fight tooth and nail to be out of Right to Information Act. They never want to be transparent. It was because of PIL by teacher (Trilochan Sastry), efficient argument by PP Rao and effective judgment by PV Rao, not because of any politicians, the candidates are now compelled to reveal their criminal, academic (if any) and wealth background. The ADR and PUCL filed a PIL before the High Court of Delhi seeking directions to make the electoral process in India more fair, transparent and equitable.

The Government of India, in routine sought Law Commission to recommend and Law Commission, recommended, which the Government never cared to implement. The Election Commission, in its Constitutional responsibility, should have required all contesting candidates to disclose personal background information to the public, including criminal history, educational qualifications, personal financial details and other information necessary for judging a candidate’s capacity and capability. It did not do until the Supreme Court mandated it and a law was forced upon. Ruling that a candidate’s background should not be kept in the dark as it is not in the interest of democracy, the High Court of Delhi ordered the Election Commission to obtain such information for the benefit of the voters.

The Union of India challenged the decision of High Court through an appeal to the Supreme Court of India, arguing that the Election Commission and the High Court did not have such powers and that voters did not have a right to such information. Shameless again! Two significant rulings were given by the court: (1) When the legislature is silent on a particular subject and an entity (in this case, the Election Commission) has been granted implementation authority with respect to such subject, the Court assumes that the entity has the power to issue directions or orders to fill such a void until a suitable law on the subject is enacted; the Court confirmed that Article 324 “operates in areas unoccupied by legislation” and that “the silence of a statute has no exclusionary effect except where it flows from necessary implication”. In other words, the Court’s power to issue directions pursuant to Article 324 is plenary.

By extension, the Election Commission, as ordered by the Court, can issue suitable directions to maintain the purity and transparency of the “entire process of election”. (2) Citizens have a right to know about public functionaries, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech and expression and which includes the right to know about the backgrounds of candidates for public office. The Court characterized the right to know as a right derived from the right to freedom of speech and expression. The public has a right to know about candidates contesting elections because such rights include the right to hold opinions and acquire information so as to be sufficiently informed in forming and disseminating those opinions throughout the election process.

The Court advanced this point by observing that a successful democracy strives toward an “aware citizenry” and misinformation or non-information of any kind will create an “uniformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce”. The Court directed the EC to issue orders to compel each contestant to give information about criminal charges and convictions in the candidate’s past, any pending cases in which the candidate is an accused, all assets of a candidate including those of his/her spouse, all liabilities of a candidate, and all educational qualifications of a candidate. The judicial wisdom did not appear to be democratic wisdom for the politicians ruling India during December 2002. Led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, they responded to the judgment, by amending Representation of the People Act, that required a candidate for office to provide information “as to whether he is accused [or convicted] of any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more in a pending case” (Section 33A).

Most important is S 33B: No candidate could be compelled to disclose any additional information, including educational qualifications and assets and liabilities, “notwithstanding anything contained in the judgment of any court or directions issued by the Election Commission”. Shameless Again! This is the real face of political parties, whether BJP or Congress, Left or Center. Again the Supreme Court examined the constitutional validity of Section 33B in the case Union for Civil Liberties and Another (PUCL) v. Union of India and Another. Justice P Venkatram Reddy in 2003 Judgment of Supreme Court held: Section 33B inserted by the Representation of People (3 rd Amendment) Act, 2002 does not pass the test of constitutionality firstly for the reason that it imposes blanket ban on dissemination of information other than that spelt out in the enactment irrespective of the need of the hour and the future exigencies and expedients and secondly for the reason that the ban operates despite the fact that the disclosure of information now provided for is deficient and inadequate. Because of this order, today every candidate is explaining his background through an affidavit. It is now the duty of voter to think over whether he is knowingly voting a criminal, or a bankrupt/corrupt, or uneducated criminal or educated leader or one, who claims to have a false degree! Dear Voters, Let us not elect criminals.


Judicial hurdles to be weeded out: Jayalalithaa

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa Tuesday said the Alternate Disputes Resolution (ADR) was an integral part of modern legal practice and would weed out hurdles in universal justice.

Inaugurating the ADR Centre here, Jayalalithaa said: “ADR is now an integral part of modern legal practice and jurisprudence. This will go a long way in weeding out impediments to securing universal justice.”

According to her, growing population, increasing awareness of rights and the confidence of the people in the judiciary have witnessed a tremendous spurt in litigation.

“In the Indian context, lack of awareness of legal provisions, mystifying legal terms, delays in disposal and the prohibitive cost of litigation were some of the barriers to accessing justice,” Jayalalithaa said.

“The cost of litigation has increased exponentially over time and the ability of the marginalised sections to avail their constitutional right to legal remedies is seriously hampered by their lack of resources. There are a lot of litigants clamouring for speedy justice,” she added.

She said through careful thought and precise planning, the ADR mechanism had been put in place with legal validity as the vital elements of judiciousness, fairness, equality and compassion cannot be allowed to be sacrificed for the sake of expeditious disposal.

“The main methods of ADR are negotiation, mediation, conciliation and arbitration,” she said.

According to her, the ADR mechanism is a pragmatic tool in solving new generation familial conflicts given the surge of matrimonial disputes in the courts.

“Litigation – whether for divorce, maintenance, alimony, child custody or any other matrimonial cause – should cease to be viewed in terms of failure or success of legal action. The amicable settlement of family conflicts is a social therapy,” she said.

According to Jayalalithaa in any conflict it is the woman who encounters an uphill struggle to realise her rights to equality and dignity.

(Source: IANS)

Activists oppose amendments to RTI Act

rtiaCivil society activists are gearing up for an offensive against the government’s proposed legislation to exclude political parties from the ambit of the RTI Act. Besides petitions to parliamentarians, the PM and the President urging them not to support the amendments, activists plan to hold protest demonstrations and even challenge the legislation in court as a last resort.

The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared two amendments to the transparency Act to counter the Central Information Commission (CIC) June 3 order that the six national political parties ” Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI and CPM ” were public authorities. The bill is likely to be brought in the monsoon session of Parliament starting on Monday.

Despite a series of petitions to MPs and PM Manmohan Singh signed by eminent citizens including Aruna Roy, Shailesh Gandhi, Shekhar Singh and others, the government is fairly confident of smooth passage of the RTI bill.

Activists plan to challenge the proposed legislation on the grounds that it is against the constitutional right to freedom of speech. There has been a precedent earlier when the Supreme Court struck down an amendment to the Representation of People’s Act in 2002 and directed candidates to submit their financial details and criminal antecedents before the Election Commission of India. SC said the amendment was in violation of the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) co-founder Prof Jagdeep Chhokar said, “We hope RTI Act is not passed and wise counsel prevails on the lawmakers. In the unfortunate event that it is passed by Parliament, it will be challenged in court of law. The exact nature of which will depend on the specific wording of the amendments.”

Activists said there was a clear case of conflict of interest with MPs seeking to exclude themselves from the transparency Act.

The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) plans a protest demonstration on August 6 at Jantar Mantar to voice their concern against the government’s decision.

RTI activist S C Agrawal said if political parties were trying to escape scrutiny of the RTI Act, they should also return land and accommodation allotted by the central and state governments at subsidized costs and tax concessions to political parties must be abolished.

(Source: IANS)

CIC order on parties: RTI applicants file caveat in HC

A caveat was on Wednesday filed in the Delhi High Court to pre-empt any ex-parte stay on the Central Information Commission order bringing political parties under the purview of Right to Information Act.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a civil society claiming to bring transparency in Indian politics, on whose plea the CIC had passed the order, asked the High Court that it should be given the opportunity to respond if any appeal is filed by any political party.

ADR said that they apprehend that the political parties like Congress, BJP, Samajwadi Party, BSP and CPI, CPI(M) and NCP would challenge the CIC’s June 3 order.

“The caveator/ prospective respondents (ADR) apprehend that the revision/appellant may claim inter-alia ex parte interim relief from this court against CIC’s June 3 order.

“No ex parte/ad-interim relief or otherwise be granted to the prospective revisioner/appellant without a prior notice thereof of the caveators/prospective respondents is duly served,” the caveat filed through advocate Kamini Jaiswal said.

“The caveators have a strong case on merits and if an opportunity is granted to them, the caveators will convince this court not to grant ex-parte relief in the present case and to further dismiss any such revision petition/ first appeal against the order/interim application of the prospective revisioner/appellant on the merits,” as per the caveat.

On June 3, the CIC has brought six political parties – Congress, BJP, CPI-M, CPI, BSP and NCP – under the ambit of the RTI Act, saying the parties are substantially financed by the central government among other things.