New Delhi: The Election Commission decided on Monday to delete from its register 111 political parties that were found to be “non-existent” during a verification exercise aimed at cleaning up the system.
According to the poll panel, its action came after chief electoral officers (CEOs) of states had reported that these “registered unrecognized political parties” either have been found to be “non-existent” on verification or the letters issued by authorities to verify their addresses and communication details had been returned as undelivered by the postal department.
Subsequently, the EC decided to withdraw various benefits accorded to these parties under the Symbols Order (1968), including the allocation of a common election symbol.
In a statement, the poll panel said any registered unrecognized political party (RUPP) aggrieved by the decision can approach the CEO concerned within 30 days along with all evidence of existence, year-wise annual audited accounts, contribution report, expenditure report and updated list of office-bearers.
Earlier this month, the EC had deleted from its register 87 such non-existent political parties.
Sources in the poll panel shared specific details of various parties that have flouted laws and rules on disclosure of funds and donations. These details are in public domain and are available on the websites of state chief electoral officers.
The EC said a reference has also been sent to the Department of Revenue for necessary legal and criminal actions against three such parties involved in serious financial impropriety.
A list of RUPPs that have not submitted their contribution reports in FY 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 has been shared with the Revenue Department for taking all consequential action as per Representation of the People Act read with the relevant provisions of the IT Act 1961, it said.
Another list of 66 RUPPs that have claimed income tax exemption without submitting contribution reports as mandated under the law has also been shared with the Revenue Department.
There are nearly 2,800 registered unrecognized political parties in India.
The poll panel had been pushing the government to allow it to de-register political parties. On multiple occasions, it has written to the Law Ministry to amend the election law to give it the power to de-register so that it can deter the parties that indulge in financial and other irregularities.
Citing a May 25 order of the Election Commission, sources said various such parties across India have been availing tax relief without properly sharing their audit and contribution reports. Quoting details available on the websites of state CEOs, they said several parties were found to be flouting rules and laws.
Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar has been spearheading the cleanup drive against such political entities.
During his earlier posting as the financial services secretary, Kumar had taken the decision to ask banks to flag shell companies deregistered by the Registrars of Companies and take appropriate action. Over 2.26 lakh shell companies were deregistered in 2017-18.
The sources said the Apna Desh Party from Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh had two different persons as president. In the verification format, one name is mentioned as president, but the sign was by another person.
Quoting details, they said the party also failed to provide the mode of donations received by it.
Similarly, they cited the example of the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Party in Maharashtra whose balance sheets of two consecutive years were not matching.
The party, the sources said citing details on the website of the CEO Maharashtra, was investing in gold.
The Bharatiya Rajnitik Vikalp Party received around Rs 28 crore donations in two years, but no annual audit accounts were available on the website of the CEO Bihar.
For the Jan Sangharsh Virat Party in Madhya Pradesh, the auditor certified a one-line profit and loss statement without any detail, they said.
The poll panel has been urging the government that anonymous contributions of Rs 2,000 and above should be prohibited.
It has also pointed out that the present format does not incorporate the contributions amounting to a sum below Rs 20,000.
“Form 24A needs to be amended by including a column for mentioning the total contributions received in amounts less than Rs 20,000. This will be in the interest of transparency,” one of the EC proposals sent to the government read.