New Delhi, Dec 16: The battle against black money will be incomplete without addressing the "free flow" of unaccounted money into the electoral process, ADR has said in a letter to the SIT probing unaccounted money of Indians abroad.
In a letter to Justice (retd.) M.B. Shah, chairman of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money, Jagdeep Chhokar, founder-trustee of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), said that SIT's work cannot be completed unless due attention is paid to the possible use of unaccounted money in the electoral and political process of the country.
Following the letter, ADR submitted a memorandum to SIT which has made several recommendations including a ceiling on election expenditure of political parties, bringing them under the Right to Information Act and disclosure of sources of income of candidates contesting elections.
"The availability of disproportionately large resources of unaccounted money with the political parties during elections might lend itself to misuse by the parties which belies the ideal of free and fair elections in a democratic setup like India. Thus a ceiling should be imposed on election expenditure of political parties," it said.
ADR said that analysis of income tax returns of national political parties between 2004-05 and 2012-13 shows that the total income of the parties from unknown sources of income amounted to Rs.4,368.75 crores (72.98 percent of total income of national parties).
It said that election expenditure statements of candidates and parties should be filed on time, complying strictly with the prescribed format.
"The expenditure statements submitted by the parties should be subjected to CAG audit," it said.
ADR said there is a need for a comprehensive bill to strengthen the functioning of political parties and the issue has been addressed by the Law Commission and Election Commission of India.
It shared a bill with SIT which has been drafted by a committee chaired by Justice (retd.) M.N. Venkatachaliah.
"CIC's decision bringing political parties under RTI should be complied with in order to instate transparency and accountability in the democratic setup," it said.
Referring to the need for financial disclosure for political parties, ADR said "curious cases like that of BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) have been observed where the party has declared total income of Rs.585.07 crores between 2004-05 and 2012-13 of which Rs.307.31 crores was from voluntary contributions."
ADR said that names and other particulars of 'voluntary' contributors were not known as the BSP has maintained that no donations above Rs.20,000 was received thereby not declaring the name of a single donor in eight years.
It said there were very few regional parties which submit their IT returns and contribution reports to the respective authorities on a regular basis annually.
ADR said political parties either do not file their election expenditure statements or do not file them on time.
"BJP and a few regional parties have not yet submitted their expenditure statements for Karnataka assembly elections held in 2013 when the deadline was July 22, 2013. Even for the Lok Sabha elections, 15 political parties have not submitted their election expenditure statements when the deadline was Aug 26, 2014."
ADR said national parties declared a total of Rs.381.81 crores as donations collected in cash during Lok Sabha elections held in 2009 but the sources of these donations remain unavailable.
The NGO said that of the more than 1600 registered political parties, only 464 contested in the Lok Sabha election held this year "thus raising the question on the need for registering as a political party when not actively taking part in the political process."
It said tax exemption and the need for declaring only donations above Rs. 20,000 were among possible reasons for increased registrations.