Taking note of the unexpected surge in the assets of politicians during their tenures as MPs and MLAs, the Supreme Court has sought a detailed report from Centre on what action it has taken in this regard.

According to reports, as many as 289 legislators, including some well known politicians, are currently under the judicial scanner for amassing unaccounted wealth.

A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer, hearing the matter, said that a thorough probe is needed to find the source of income and whether property amassed was through legal means.

The bench also pulled up Centre for its reluctance in sharing information and directed the government to file a report within a week.

The apex court made this observation based on a report prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which stated that 77% of the total income declared by the BJP and Congress in FY16 came from ‘unknown sources’.

Nearly a quarter of the wealth declared by the two parties remained unspent, the ADR report said.

''BJP and the Congress have declared a total income of ₹832.42 crore in 2015-16, of which ₹647 crore (77%) is from unknown sources, the ARD report said.

“Unknown sources” declared in the income-tax returns are those that account for donations below ₹20,000, and include ‘sale of coupons’, ‘relief fund’, ‘miscellaneous income’, ‘voluntary contributions’, ‘contribution from meetings/ morchas’ etc,'' the report stated.

“The details of donors of such voluntary contributions are not available in the public domain,” the ADR report stated, based on declarations submitted by the parties to the Election Commission (EC).

While the BJP has declared income of ₹459.56 crore as “voluntary contributions” and ₹1.2 crore as “miscellaneous income”, the Congress has declared ₹16.80 crore from “voluntary contributions”, ₹1,2 crore as “miscellaneous” and ₹167 crore from “sale of coupons”. 

The BJP has declared a total income of ₹570.86 crore during 2015-16, against the Congress’s ₹261.56 crore, according to ADR.

Of the BJP’s total declared income of ₹570.86 crore, 23.13 per cent, or ₹132.06 crore, remained unspent by the party. The Congress declared a total income of ₹261.56 crore, of which 26.11 per cent, or ₹68.30 crore, was declared unspent.

Recommendations Made By ADR

Calling for greater transparency in election funding, the ADR urged the apex poll watchdog to impose rules that no part of Form 24A submitted by political parties providing details of donations above ₹20,000 should be left blank.

''Full details of all donors should be made available for public scrutiny under the RTI. Some countries where this is done include Bhutan, Nepal, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Bulgaria, the US and Japan. 

“In none of these countries is it possible for 75% of the source of funds to be unknown,” it said in its report.

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