Saturday, March 17, 2018
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A blind man being carried for voting during 1952 General Elections in Delhi.

THE SUPREME Court recently made it mandatory for those contesting elections to disclose their sources of income and that of their family members. So far, they only needed to reveal their income, not the sources.

The court had also called for speedy trial of MPs, MLAs/MLCs facing with criminal charges. This led to the Union Finance Ministry allocating Rs 7.8 crore to set up a dozen special courts for a year to try 1,581 criminal cases against politicians, including parliamentarians and state legislators.

The pace of electoral reforms in India, however, is tardy and often times regressive as in the case of recent relaxation in disclosure norms for corporate donations. Here is a look at how we have fared over the years.

 

There are many demands to sanitise the electoral system that are pending for a long time. Some of these include:

State Funding of Elections
 

This means the government funding the political parties or candidates contesting the elections. This would ensure equal playing field to all and also eliminate outside pressure over government policies and functioning by various lobbies. The move is also bound to help in controlling the flow of unaccounted money and muscle power during elections and hence control the levels of corruption in public life.

Political Parties under RTI Act
 

In 2013, the Central Information Commission (CIC) declared the national political parties as  public authorities within the meaning of the Right to Information (RTI) Act since they get subsidised resources and support from the government. However, all the six national parties refused to obey the orders despite several notices sent to them. 

Paid News as Electoral Offence
 

Paid news is sale of editorial space by media organisations in favour of political parties. This is essentially an advertisement in guise of news to gain votes. Though the practice has been prevalent for years, it gained limelight during 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the Press Council of India investigated the media coverage of candidates. The Election Commission of India also took former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to court over allegations of paid news

The Election Commission wants the paid news to be made electoral offence with not less than two years of imprisonment so that such individuals are disqualified from contesting elections, but the issue is yet to be picked up.

The issues of simulatenous Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, mandatory voting and linking of Aadhaar with electoral rolls are other demands that are raised frequently with claims that these will ease functioning of the Indian democracy.

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