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29th November 2023 (9 Topics)

Enhancing Democracy through Transparent Political Funding

Context:

Amendments to the Representation of the People Act 1951 grant electoral bonds' donors complete anonymity, contrary to global norms favoring full disclosure of political contributions.

Importance of Electoral Bond Challenge

  • Supreme Court hearings on electoral bonds are crucial for democracy and rule of law in India.
  • Political parties are vital in the democratic process, necessitating transparent and accountable funding.

Global Perspectives on Political Funding

  • Historical overview: In 1910, the U.S. enacted the Publicity Act, emphasizing full disclosure and limiting political contributions.
  • EU Regulation 2014: Imposed limits on donations with anonymization for small amounts, mandating disclosure for larger sums.
  • K.'s Political Parties Act 2000: Imposed restrictions on donations and required declaration of donation sources.

Key Regulatory Requirements for Political Funding

  • Complete Disclosure: Most legal regulations emphasize full disclosure of donors above specific minimal amounts.
  • Limits or Caps on Donations: Restrictions on the size of donations to prevent unchecked influence on the democratic process.

Importance of Public Disclosure:

  • Pillars of democracy: Transparent accounts foster citizen trust in parties and politicians, upholding the rule of law.
  • Curbing corruption: Limits on donations prevent democracy from being tarnished by unchecked large contributions.

Electoral Justice for Democracy

  • Electoral justice ensures adherence to laws, protecting electoral rights and guaranteeing free, fair, and genuine elections.
  • Electoral bonds with undisclosed donors violate transparency, undermining the democratic principles of fairness.

The Way Forward

  • Constitutional challenge insufficient: A separate law is necessary for full publication of political donations.
  • Proposed legislation should mandate:
  • Public disclosure of donor identities above a nominal limit.
  • Immediate reporting of large donations to the election commission.
  • Public availability of political party accounts.
  • Auditing of political party accounts by an independent authority.
  • Setting limits on funding and expenditure.
  • Mechanisms for law enforcement.

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