New Delhi, Dec 9: Transparency in the finances of political parties is a must as the lack of the same will affect both governance and the trust of the people, several persons including the former Chief Election Commissioner of India Dr S Y Quaraishi noted.
At a round table organised by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), P K Dash, former Director-General (Expenditure) at the Election Commission of India, who is currently the Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, felt that the current laws on finances and functioning of political parties is ambivalent.
He felt, ".... a further opaque layer in the funding of political parties has been created due to the presence of Electoral Trusts which are created and managed by corporate houses". He also added, "The future course of action for ushering in transparency would depend on the decision of the Supreme Court bringing political parties under RTI, pro-active interest of the ECI and public pressure through PILs and mass media campaigns".
Saurabh Bhardwaj, MLA, AAP, personally felt it was an uphill battle. He felt there was not enough coverage given to the counter affidavit in the UOI vs Political parties under RTI in Supreme Court. He said, ".... there is a nexus between politicians, media and corporates".
He fully supported transparency in political parties, and mentioned loopholes like no limits on political parties' expenditure during elections lead to increase use of black money. He felt that there should be more public opinion building through debates on this issue.
Prof Jagadish Chhokar, Founder-Trustee of ADR suggested that the AAP should pro-actively appoint a Central Public Information Officer and provide information to the public for promoting transparency.
He also felt that all parties should commit to come under the ambit of the RTI as it would benefit them in the longer run.
Speaking on the session titled "Exploring the possibility of scrutiny of statements submitted by political parties", Shahid Khan, Former CBDT member, said, "On the one hand, RTI is a tool that every citizen needs to utilize to learn more about the finances and functioning of political parties, whereas filing of PILs in the courts is also one of the strengths. But, that alone will not bring about the change that is required to improve transparency in parties. The need of the hour is to bring in a law exclusive to regulate the registration and functioning of political parties."