The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Twin relaxations in election funding

New Delhi, July 30: The Lok Sabha today gave its assent to a bill that relaxes some of the proposed rules on election funding.

The Election and Other Related Laws (Amendment) Bill 2003, tabled by law minister Arun Jaitley and adopted by voice vote, allows only recognised political parties to receive donations from private companies or individuals and raises the exemption limit of unaccounted donations to Rs 20,000 from Rs 10,000, proposed when the bill was mooted.

But donations over Rs 20,000 have to be made by cheque and a record maintained by the party concerned, which will have to get its accounts audited and file annual returns with the Election Commission.

Both the donors and the recipients are eligible for tax concessions on donations made by cheque. But failure to file returns would rob the party of its tax benefit.

Private companies are allowed to contribute up to five per cent of their profits to parties. However, there is no cap on similar contributions by individuals.

The bill proposes to empower the Centre to fix the poll expenditure of candidates in consultation with the Election Commission.

Travel expenses incurred by leaders of political parties campaigning for them will now not be included in the expenditure of individual candidates. Money spent by security or other officials attached to the leaders will also be excluded.

The bill requires the poll panel to supply electoral rolls to candidates free of cost.

While recognised political parties can field up to 40 leaders for electioneering without their travel expenses being added to the expenditure of the candidates, unrecognised parties can avail of the same benefit for 20 leaders each.

In a brief debate in the Lok Sabha, almost all parties supported the legislation. The bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha. However, many Lok Sabha MPs felt it was too small a step towards introducing transparency in the poll process.

The bill also proposes to regulate election propaganda on electronic media.

According to a new section inserted in the Representation of Peoples Act through the amendment, all television and radio channels will be bound by guidelines that the Election Commission will issue on electioneering.

The commission, on the basis of past performance of parties, will “allocate equitable sharing of time on the cable television network and other electronic media in such a manner as may be prescribed to display or propagate any election matter or to address public in connection with an election”. This allocation will also be binding on all the parties.

The commission will draw up a code of conduct for cable operators and the electronic media.

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