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Is Election Commission powerless to ensure disclosure of funding: HC

Is Election Commission powerless to ensure disclosure of funding: HC

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Election Commission of India (EC) whether it is powerless to take action against political parties which do not comply with its instructions to disclose funding and expenditure details.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao said EC has to ensure that its instructions are followed by political parties and asked, "Do you have no power (to take action) under the existing law?"

The EC, in response, told the bench that it has been consistently writing to the parties which have not disclosed their expenditure.

"You wrote to them, but they have not complied. What further? When compliance has not been done, tell us what you propose to do? What powers do you have? Your response indicates helplessness on your part," the court said. It directed the EC to file an affidavit indicating what powers or options it has to ensure implementation or enforcement of its guidelines regarding disclosure of expenditure by political parties and what steps it can take when there is violation of its norms.

The poll panel had in August 2014 issued guidelines on 'Transparency and Accountability in Party Funds and Election Expenditure'.

The direction came while hearing a PIL by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking implementation of the guidelines as well as the Law Commission's recommendation that a provision be enacted to monitor and regulate the expenditure by political parties during elections.

Senior advocate Arvind Nigam and advocate Abhimanue Shrestha, appearing for ADR, said the Supreme Court has held that the EC has the power to give effect to the law panel's recommendations.

They also said that till a legislation comes on the issue, EC has the powers to take action against parties which do not abide by its guidelines.

The NGO has alleged in its plea that since the present political system was being "funded through various illegal means and also by the people and corporate agencies with vested interests, it (political system) does not seem to be inclined to give effect to the recommendations of the Law Commission".

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