- Still hanging fire on transparency
The Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman has imposed a fine on several political parties for failing to comply with its earlier order on publishing information about candidates with criminal records.
GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Representation of People’s Act, Legislature, Important Judgements and Cases)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Criminalisation of Politics in India
- Developments in Criminalisation of Politics in India
- Political transparency evaded
- Way forward
Developments in Criminalisation of Politics in India
- A bench of Justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai said it found political parties guilty of contempt for not following in letter and spirit its direction to publish details of criminal cases against candidates fielded in Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
- The SC had directed political parties to declare and widely publicise not just the criminal antecedents of candidates, but also inform the electorate why these candidates were found to be more suitable by the party than those without criminal backgrounds.
- The SC anticipating the parties may cite ‘winnability’ as the criterion, had also issued directions as to how selection shall be made giving importance to qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned.
Political transparency evaded
Union of India v. ADR (2002)
- In Union of India v. ADR, the courts asked the candidates standing for elections to file an affidavit declaring their educational, financial and criminal backgrounds.
- The parliament tried to dilute the Supreme Court’s 2002 judgment by inserting new sections in the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- But the Supreme Court struck down and reiterated its earlier pronouncement.
Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005
- In 2013, the full bench of the Central Information Commission (CIC) declared six national political parties ‘public authorities’ under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
- Parties were required to appoint Public Information Officers and submit themselves to provisions of the transparency law.
- Political parties did not want to disclose information about their functioning with citizens. They immediately introduced a bill in the Parliament to amend the RTI law to exclude political parties from the ambit of the legislation.
- The attempt was later dropped due to strong public opposition.
Electoral Bond Scheme
- The electoral bonds scheme undermines the voters’ right to know about the funding of parties.
- There is no transparency regarding political contributions and political parties are not subject to any form of an independent audit.
- The design of the scheme is such that while citizens and opposition parties have no way of knowing who is donating bonds to which party, it is not difficult for the party in power to access the data.
- Political parties are at the heart of our democracy. They form governments that make policies that have a profound impact on peoples’ lives. The policies and legislations made by the parties keep a keen eye on the activities of the people.
- Similarly, it is peoples’ right to know how political parties are functioning — who is funding them and what principles they are keeping in mind while taking policy decisions, supporting or opposing bills in the legislature, or while selecting candidates for various elections. Political parties have failed on this principle.
- The above examples clearly point out that political parties and their representatives are not concerned about transparency and are not interested in making themselves answerable to citizens. Keeping in mind the tremendous public interest at stake, the judiciary must play a more proactive role.
- The Supreme Court needs to urgently hear the electoral bonds matter and the challenge to the refusal of political parties to comply with the CIC’s order.
- The judiciary could consider putting in place a mechanism to monitor compliance with its directions prior to all State and general elections and debar candidates who violate its orders.
-Source: The Hindu