Non-serious parties misusing benefits: Par panel wants law to tackle them

The mushrooming of “non-serious” political parties have prompted a Parliamentary panel to recommend stringent law to prevent misuse of tax and other benefits given to such outfits.

The recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice came after the Election Commission informed the panel about the increase in number of parties over the years.

“Some do not exist on the ground. Some others have never contested the election and some others have been formed and registered only to take tax benefits from the government,” the panel said in its report tabled in Parliament last week.

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It said some parties are not complying with the guidelines of the Election Commission for submission of audited accounts.

The EC has de-registered 255 parties out of 1864 as they existed only on papers and had never contested any election since their formation. They were removed from the list of registered unrecognised parties. Registered parties could avail tax benefits and some of them were misusing this provision in the law.

The committee headed by Congress MP Anand Sharma felt that provisions relating to registration of parties needs to be made “more stringent so that non-serious political parties are not able to register in the first place” and if registered, their registration could be cancelled.

“The possibility to regulating registration of political parties and suspension/cancellation of their registration through a law of Parliament may also be explored to prevent misuse of facilities/benefits available to registered political parties by unscrupulous elements,” it said.

Another key area touched by the panel was on the allocation for Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail System (VVPAT).

Amid fresh allegations raised by parties like BSP and AAP on tampering of EVMs, the panel has vouched for the need for VVPAT, saying it will bring about “greater transparency in elections and increase voters confidence”. Though the allegations made after the results of recent Assembly elections were declared, the report made no mention of it.

The committee also raised the questions about allocating Rs 1,000 crore only when the projection was Rs 1,609.87 crore.

While analysing the budget allocation for voters’ awareness, the panel said only Rs 146 crore was allocated despite the Commission projecting Rs 283.51 crore.

It expressed hope that the government would provide more money for the Commission to carry out these activities.

(An edited versipn appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 20, 2017)

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