According to the declaration, before demonetisation, with Rs 3.56 crores CPI(M) had highest cash-in-hand, BSP had a bank balance of Rs 507.22 crores
Venkatesh Nayak | January 25, 2017 | New Delhi
While none of the political parties have so far volunteered detailed information about how they coped with the demonetisation-remonetisation drive, the audit reports for the financial year 2015-16 that some of them have submitted to the Election Commission of India (ECI) contain some clues about the amount of cash they may have had in hand. Thanks to the pro-transparency initiatives of the ECI the cash-in-hand declarations of 22 political parties are public. Details submitted by 16 prominent political parties are analysed here.
These figures are from the end of the last financial year, namely as they stood on 31st March, 2016. The actual position vis-a-vis the cash-in-hand figures of these parties on 08 November, 2016 when the demonetisation decision was announced is not known. How much cash did they hold in denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 on that date is also not known. All these political parties have a duty to come clean on the amounts deposited in demonetised notes and the manner in which this was done. As they claim that all donations received were legitimate and from the general public, surely, there should be no qualms in clarifying how they dealt with the effect of demonetisation.
Several national and State political parties may not have submitted audited reports for 2015-16 yet. The ECI website displays the audited reports of the statement of income and expenditure of 22 national and State level political parties. According to the ECI, the deadline for submission for all parties was 30 October, 2016. The web page displaying these audit reports was last updated at the end of 2016 (31st December).
Defaulting political parties vis-a-vis defaulting NGOs
During the previous UPA regime and under the current NDA Government, the registration of several thousand NGOs receiving foreign funding was cancelled for not submitting their annual statements of income and expenditure. Some of these orders are accessible at:
However, several national and State political parties namely, the AAP, BJP, INC, NCP, Shiva Sena and SP are contesting elections in the five poll-bound States without any qualms about missing the deadline for submitting their audit reports to the ECI. Submission of these audit reports is a prerequisite for all political parties to claim exemption from paying income tax on their income every year. Yet, the Government does not seem to have initiated any action to revoke the IT-exemption for failing to submit audit reports as per the deadline.
Most political parties think because they are non-governmental organisations, they should not be covered by the Right to Information Act or the Lokpal and Lokaytuktas Act for the purpose of transparency and accountability. Moreover a handful of them connived quietly to amend the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act through the 2016 Finance Bill with retrospective effect, in order to legitimise their once illegal actions of taking foreign funding from the Indian subsidiaries of MNCs. But there is immense enthusiasm for imposing more and more regulations on NGOs to the point of their extinction.
Some of these parties declared miniscule amounts of money held in cash or in banks. Whether these figures are a true reflection of the cash handled by these parties is a big question. Let alone fight elections, how do they pay for the upkeep of the party bureaucracy with so little funds is a big mystery. Or, are as some political pundits have said, none of the political parties were adversely affected by notebandi because they had stowed away funds using other methods that are not easy to detect?
Surely, the rules of transparency and accountability must apply to political parties as well and not just government or foreign funded NGOs. If not the promise of equal treatment of every person before the law under Article 14 of the Constitution becomes a sad joke.
Celebrating the 41st anniversary of people's right to know with greater transparency in public life. Today we celebrate the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court's finding about the people's fundamental right to know. More than four decade ago, on 24th January, 1975, a five-member Constitution Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court ruled that the people's right to know was implied within the meaning and scope of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution [State of Uttar Pradesh vs Raj Narain & Ors., AIR 1975 SC 865]. While disposing a petition seeking disclosure of the contents of the "Blue Book" containing instructions for ensuring the security of the then Prime Minister, Ms. Indira Gandhi, Justice K K Mathew explained the important of the people's right to know in the following words:
"74. In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything, that is done in a public way, by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. The right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor which should make one wary, when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can, at any rate, have no repercussion on public security. To cover with veil secrecy the common routine business, is not in the interest of the public. Such secrecy can seldom be legitimately desired. It is generally desired for the purpose of parties and politics or personal self-interest or bureaucratic routine. The responsibility of officials to explain and to justify their acts is the chief safeguard against oppression and corruption."
The Apex Court's opinion about transparency in public life can be extended to all public transactions including those involving political parties without losing the basic principle, namely, the people's right to know everything that is done in a public way. This includes the collection of and accounting for donations received by political parties. Will all political parties come clean about their financial affairs or will they continue to dish out bulls...t in the age of the cow and the bull, remains to be seen.
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