Parties must come clear on funding and particulars of donations received.
Political parties have long evaded the kind of disclosures taxpayers are subjected to. Despite the Central Information Commission, in June 2013, ordering that parties must share the details of the funds they receive and reveal the identity of donors to those who seek this information through the RTI route, this is yet to happen. Therefore, the Supreme Court asking the parties to explain their reluctance, hopefully, should put pressure on them be transparent about funding. The SC has also asked the Election Commission (EC) and the Union government to give their opinion on the matter—note, the EC has come out strongly in favour of increased transparency for parties in the past.
Though Section 29C of the Representation of People Act, 1951, mandates that parties must submit details for contributions over R20,000—this alone makes it difficult to get details for nearly 75% of the donations in FY13, as per a 2014 report by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW)—the provision is observed more in its violation. Another ADR-NEW study of parties’ submissions of their financial details reveals that there is grossly “incomplete disclosure of information” in the reporting of donations by the national political parties. There is perhaps a lesson to be learnt from the transparency practices for political parties in the UK; the Electoral Commission, the country’s election watchdog, mandates that registered parties “must keep clear and accurate records of their accounts” and those with income/spending over a certain threshold must have their accounts “independently audited”. All parties, whose annual income or spending is of over £25,000, have to submit annual statements of accounts to the Commission.