EC rejects parties' plea for transparency norm rollback

The Election Commission has dug in its heels and told political parties that it had full powers to enforce the transparency guidelines it had issued to them to curb use of black money in polls.

The EC rejected the argument of some political parties that the commission had no power to issue such guideline and to ask them to submit annual audited accounts.

The poll panel made it clear that it had issued the guidelines to the political parties on August 29, in accordance with the powers vested in it by Article 324 of the Constitution. It added that violations of the guideline would entail action in accordance with Paragraph 16 (a) of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, which gives the panel power to suspend or withdraw recognition of a recognised political party for “its failure to observe Model Code of Conduct or follow lawful directions and instructions.”

“Under Article 324 of the Constitution, the commission has plenary powers, and also sacred duty, to conduct free and fair elections in the country,” the EC stated in a letter sent out to all political parties on Wednesday. It wrote that the use of black money in election campaigns disturbed the level playing field and vitiated the purity of the election process.

“Therefore,” it wrote, “there was need to issue the transparency guidelines, in order to protect purity of election process for conduct of free and fair elections, as enshrined in the Constitution.”

The guideline for Transparency and Accountability in Party Funds and Election Expenditure issued by the EC came into effect on October 1. The guideline consists of several measures, including making it mandatory for each political party to collect all contributions above Rs 20,000 through cheques. It also asked the political parties to record names and addresses of all donors.

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