NEW DELHI: Against the backdrop of the National Herald case, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi on Tuesday said the poll panel had no oversight over 80 per cent of the total funds of political parties even as he pushed for electoral reforms that would bring usage of funds under scrutiny.
Speaking at an international conference on money power in the poll arena, Zaidi said political funding escapes scrutiny in the absence of adequate legal framework. Highlighting how below-`20,000 donations do not come on the radar of the Election Commission as they are exempt from scrutiny, Zaidi pointed out that nearly 80 per cent of funds received by political parties fall under the below `20,000 category.
“These funds are neither restricted nor prohibited under law and we don’t know the origin of these donations. EC is of the view that political parties should declare all levels of contributions,” he said adding that in the absence of laws in this regard, the poll body brought out guidelines in 2014 to somehow regulate these. The only legal requirement for political parties is to make annual contribution report to the EC. “We send these annual reports to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Income Tax Department for appropriate action,” he said. Another loophole, he cited were the trusts - electoral trusts of the political parties - that are beyond the oversight of the Commission.
“Another interesting part is electoral trusts can receive any amount of donations from any person excepting a government company and make any amount of contribution to political parties. The legal regime for regulation of trusts does not even exist under the Representation of the People Act,” he explained. “Trusts are not required to maintain, audit and publish accounts. There are no declarations or disclosure requirements for electoral trusts... we have suggested a law on this aspect,” he said.