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Law Commission Proposed Wide Ranging Reforms
Mar 16, 2015

The Law Commission of India submitted its Report No. 255 on Electoral Reforms to the Union Law and Justice Ministry. The 201 page report has come after due consideration and deliberations with the stake holders including of registered national and state political parties and extensive and in-depth analysis of various issues by the Commission.

This report is sequel of the request of Ministry of Law and Justice made in January 2013 to the 12th Law Commission of India to consider the issue of ‘Electoral Reforms’ in its entirety and suggest comprehensive measures for changes in the law.

In far-reaching recommendations that hold the potential to reshape the country’s electoral landscape, the Law Commission has suggested closer scrutiny of election donations and expenses, stricter disclosure norms, punishment for so-called paid news, and a new method to select election commissioners, among others.

The report by the Law Commission follows a law ministry reference in 2013 and subsequent requests from the Supreme Court.

Key Recommendations

  • The report proposes changes to the Representation of the People’s Act (RPA) and speaks of the need to regulate not just political parties, but also the companies that give donations to them.

  • Details of donors making contributions below Rs.20,000 to political parties must be declared if the total amount received through such sums was above Rs.20 crore or 20% of the their entire collection, whichever was less.

  • The commission also said political donations from a company’s coffers must be approved by an annual general meeting of shareholders and not just the board.

  • Election expenses incurred or authorized by candidates or their election agents should be regulated from the date of notification of elections to the date of declaration of results. At present, it is from the date of nomination to the date of declaration of results.

  • Political parties must maintain and submit annual accounts audited by a qualified and practising chartered accountant.

  • These accounts must disclose all the amounts received by the party and the expenditure incurred by it.

  • A recommendation to preserve the integrity of the Speaker’s office has been made in the form of a proposed amendment to anti-defection laws, so that questions of disqualification of those who defect may be decided by the President/Governor for the Parliament/State assemblies on the advice of the Election Commission.

  • The commission suggested introducing paying for news or receiving payment for news, as an electoral offence, making both the political party and the media organization responsible.

  • The report also recommended raising the disqualification period of a candidate who has failed to submit accounts of election contributions and expenses from three to five years, making the person ineligible to contest the next elections.

  • The commission also suggested a daily fine for each day of non-compliance by political parties and possible de-recognition of the party in extreme cases.

  • The commission has also recommended that a candidate be allowed to contest from only one constituency. Section 33(7) of the Representation of the People’s Act should be amended to permit candidates to stand from only one constituency.

  • On banning independents from contesting polls, the panel said they be debarred from contesting elections because the current regime allows a proliferation of independents, who are mostly dummy/non-serious candidates or those who stand (with the same name) only to increase the voters’ confusion.

  • On government-sponsored advertisements, the panel said they must be restricted six months before the date of the expiry of the parliament/assembly, and that public money not be used to highlight the government’s achievements.

  • The panel said that the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the two Election Commissioners should be conducted by the President through a Collegium consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India.

The Law Commission’s 255th report, if accepted by the government, could bring about greater transparency in the functioning of political parties by reducing the role of money and criminal elements in elections besides strengthening the election commission itself.

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