New Delhi: Rejecting the stand of political parties on its guidelines to ensure transparency in electoral funds, the Election Commission today made it clear that they were "binding" and threatened them that violations could lead to withdrawal of their recognition.
In a strongly-worded two-page letter to all the political parties, the Commission said the guidelines were necessary as "of late, the increasing use of black money in election campaigns has been noticed and is causing serious concern all around".
A number of parties had sought the rollback of these guidelines, which came into effect on October 1, calling them legally "untenable" and "vague".
"The guidelines have been framed after due consultation with all recognised political parties. The lawful instructions, thus issued by the Commission under Article 324, are binding on all political parties and their violations shall affect the transparency of election process which is the bedrock of democracy," the EC said.
The poll-body said it has been its endeavour "to maintain level playing field for all political parties and all candidates during elections".
"In the interest of conduct of free and fair elections, all parties are required to follow the transparency guidelines issued by the Commission and violation of lawful direction of the Commission may entail action, as envisaged under para 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968," it said.
The particular clause stipulates the "power of Commission to suspend or withdraw recognition of a recognised political party for its failure to observe Model Code of Conduct or follow lawful directions and instructions of the Commission".
The EC reasoned that its instructions for the parties to file annual audited accounts with it, including name and addresses of individuals, companies and entities making donations to them, are "intended to ensure that no funds are received from sources which are prohibited under the Representation of Peoples Act".
These measures, it said, are "essential for maintaining transparency in the functioning of political parties, which is an essential ingredient for conduct of free and fair election".
The EC, taking up the specific plea of the CPI(M) in this
regard, said it has already exempted those funds which are collected by parties through 'hundi/bucket' collections.
"In case of all donations other than those raised through hundi/bucket collection in a public meeting/rally, the record of name and address of each donor has to be maintained by the political party, as is done by all other social/civil society organisations."
The EC said "since all political parties and candidates have bank accounts and also the banks have extended services to foster inclusiveness, all parties shall make payments in excess of Rs 20,000 to a person or entity on a single day by account payee cheque or draft or by account transfer" except in some stipulated genuine cases.
"This will help in curbing excessive flow of cash during elections and will bring in transparency in the election expenditure of the parties."
It clarified that the "total amount of cash in hand of a registered political party for the purpose of defraying its day-to-day expenses shall not normally exceed the average monthly cash expenditure of the party during the last financial year".
Asking the EC to hold an all-party meeting in this regard yet again, the political parties had questioned the "legality and constitutionality" of implementing these directives.
Congress had said the guidelines "are legally untenable and are liable to be set aside on judicial review".
CPI (M) had said that many of these directives "are vague and there are possibilities of different interpretations and misinterpretations".
Janta Dal (United) strongly opposed the implementation of the guidelines saying the new requirements set by EC "constitute a significant deviation from the statutory norms and are not backed by a corresponding power with the Election Commission to impose such requirements".