The Economic Times
New Delhi

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission, which has been seeking a cap on expenditure of political parties during polls, is likely to tell the Delhi High Court that it favours disclosure of election spending of parties and submission of their final accounts soon after the conclusion of polls.

The government and the poll watchdog have been asked by the Delhi HC to file their replies on a petition from Association for Democratic Reforms. The petitioner has sought direction to the government and the EC to make it mandatory for political parties to disclose their election expenditure beginning one year to the elections. The petition has also prayed for a ceiling on parties' poll spending.

The EC has for long been writing to the law ministry seeking transparency in poll funding of parties and stringent guidelines for monitoring of election expenditure. There is a view within the commission that parties should be asked to disclose their expenditure within a week of the conclusion of the polls. "In the US, expenditure details are disclosed by parties on a daily basis, why can't this be done in India," asked an official.

As of now, parties have to submit their poll expenditure details to the EC within 75 days of the last date of polling in case of assembly elections and within 90 days in case of parliamentary polls. Though there is an election expenditure limit set by the EC for candidates, there is no such cap for parties.

Sources said the EC is in favour of withdrawal of its earlier guideline of a 75-day time limit for political parties to file their expenditure details. "No major parties have filed their expenditure details even after six months of the last round of assembly elections held in November 2013," said a senior EC official despite the fact that the commission had sent repeated reminders to these parties.

The Aam Aadmi Party, which talks about transparency in its funding and keeps updating its contribution reports every day, has so far not filed its expenditure details for Delhi assembly elections. The ruling party at the Centre, BJP, and Congress are among other defaulters.

The Law Commission is also in the process of finalising its recommendation on electoral reforms and has started consulting stakeholders. It had earlier floated a consultation paper inviting opinions from citizens and other interest groups. The commission too is in favour of more transparency in funding of political parties.

As of now, most parties don't declare their donors. As per existing rules, only contributions in excess of Rs 20,000 are to be disclosed before the EC along with the name of the donor. It is not surprising that most parties declare that all their contributions are less than Rs 20,000 each. Even Congress and BJP have up to 90% of their funds collected from undisclosed contributors.

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