Consultation on poll reforms welcome, what next?

EC takes the law commission recommendations forward, but don’t expect much from political parties

GN Bureau | March 31, 2015


#election commission   #poll reforms  


The law commission presented its 255th report, on electoral reforms, on March 12, with some bold recommendations to make democracy more meaningful and thriving. It should have generated a debate. But, like several reports on this crucial subject in the past, the political parties have largely ignored it.

An exhaustive analysis and criticism of the law commission report:
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The cover story of the April 1-15 edition of Governance Now



Against this backdrop, it is heartening to note that the election commission (EC) has taken the first step of organizing a national consultation on ‘political finance and law commission recommendations’, held in Vigyan Bhawan on March 30.

The seminar was attended by law commission chairman justice AP Shah, former chief election commissioners Lyngdoh, Krishnamurthy, Gopalaswami, Chawla and Quraishi, former chief information commissioner Satyanand Mishra, former CBDT member SS Khan, as well as representatives of political parties, lawyers, academicians, and members of civil society.

After opening remarks by election commissioner Nasim Zaidi and address by chief election commissioner HS Brahma, justice Shah gave an overview of the recommendations on political finance.

The event had technical sessions on four topics: international best practices on political finance, law commission recommendations and expanding in-kind government subsidy during election campaign; recommendations on contribution to political parties and candidates and law commission recommendations and reforms on accounting and disclosure of election expenses by parties, candidates and third party campaigners and reforms on vote buying.

The day-long consultation concluded with an address by Brahma and Zaidi.

According to a press release, the consultation groups arrived at broad consensus on some of these issues:


1. ‘Big Money’ in elections to be controlled

2. ‘Vote buying’ to be controlled within law

3. Transparency of accounts of parties/candidates

4. No corporate donation to political party.

5. Formation of a National Electoral Trust under the control of the election commission for corporate donations.

6. EC to be given power to make rules.

7. Third-party campaigners to be monitored.

8. Fast-track courts to try election offences.


The detailed report on National Consultation will be compiled and will be made available on the EC website, the release said.

While the consultation at least starts off the much-needed discussion of the law commission recommendations, leading political parties are yet to even react to the report, much less take action. For obvious reasons, the parties have shown little inclination to bring in reforms in electoral practices, and much of the way forward is solely in their hands, as their word is final in law-making.
 

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