There's no political will to regulate parties: Former CEC Quraishi

Says the EC doesn't have the power to deregister sham political parties

PTI8_24_2018_000120B Dr S.Y. Quraishi | PTI

THERE ARE AROUND 3,000 registered unrecognised political parties, but most of them are either defunct or bogus. Many of these parties are involved in money-laundering.

The Election Commission has been wanting to take action against these parties, but it does not have the power to de-register them. Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court had asked the Election Commission under what power could it de-register parties since there was nothing mentioned in the law.

The Commission has been asking the government for the last two decades for the power to de-register political parties. It is one among the around 90 election reform proposals pending with the government. Almost every chief election commissioner has taken up these proposals with the government for the last two decades.

De-listing of parties is an innovation that the Election Commission came up with a few years ago, which results in the parties not being able to contest since they cannot have a symbol. Here, it must be noted that some parties exist only to hold on to their names and symbols, which they trade with others. Since the parties cannot be de-registered, they continue to be on the list.

During my tenure as chief election commissioner, we did a check of around 100 parties. Many were just name-plate parties and many not even that. One party had spent Rs3 crore on, guess what, buying jewellery and shares!

Of the 2,000 odd parties, only around 400-450 were active and putting up candidates in elections. The others were either defunct or bogus parties. There were instances where the main leader died and other members lost interest in carrying on with political activity.

However, many were involved in financial irregularities, mainly the misuse of the income tax exemption benefit. They can take donation at zero tax and the donors can also avail of exemption.

It is quite easy to restrict parties from misusing income tax exemption. If a party has not contested elections for the last three to four years, then they should be debarred from availing income tax exemption. This provision can be inserted into the existing law.

The power to de-register is important not only to weed out bogus or defunct parties, but also to take action against parties which violate their own constitution. They pledge to follow the Constitution of India, but their activities are anti-national and anti-social. In neighbouring Nepal, the election commission can impose fines on parties for violating instructions. Our Election Commission does not have such powers.

There is no political will to regulate RUPPs. The government has failed to take an initiative in this regard. Without political will, nothing much can happen.

The author is former chief election commissioner.

As told to Soni Mishra.