Congress wants partial state funding of polls

Nat

The ruling Congress has recommended a comprehensive set of electoral reforms to the Law Commission of India, including "partial" state funding of elections, auditing of political parties' accounts by a "CAG-approved panel", and a role for the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha in the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner. It also wants "paid news" to be defined and made an electoral offence.

The party has also recommended disqualification for conviction under the recent Criminal Law (Amendment) Act that was brought in the wake of the gangrape in a moving bus in Delhi last December. It suggested that conviction for offences under Dowry Prohibition Act and Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act be also included as grounds for disqualification.

The 30-point recommendations, submitted to the Law Commission, were made by a panel headed by senior Congress leader Ambika Sonia. The panel submitted these recommendations to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi recently. The recommendations came in response to the consultation paper brought by the Law Commission following a reference by the government to consider the issue of poll reforms.

The committee has recommended state financial support to parties "for obtaining time on private channels and newspaper" to put forward their views to electors. It has advocated that candidates of recognised political parties be provided in-kind support such as specified quantity of diesel/petrol, printing facility, postal stamps, IT facilities, communication equipment including phone, loudspeakers, food packets and allowance for counting agents. It has sought additional state funding for candidates from social groups that are "grossly unrepresented" in Parliament as also candidates from reserved seats when their personal income is below a stipulated amount.

The Congress has suggested that limits on campaign expenditure be set at realistic levels, based on the current actual costs of legally permissible election expenditure. The Election Commission should adjust limits "annually based on inflation", it recommended. It said the Congress believes that spending on election in excess of prescribed ceiling should be added as an electoral offence where the violation is of a serious nature.

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