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Election Commission orders Congress to file its annual audit report within 30 days

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Election Commission has ordered Congress to file their annual audit report within 30 days. The poll panel wrote a letter to the party in response to Congress’ objection to its transparency guidelines requiring parties to file their annual audit reports with the commission.

As reported by a national daily, the Election Commission wrote to the Congress on June 9 underlining its powers under Article 324(1) of the Constitution to issue instructions to deal with situations not covered by enacted laws and rules, and directed the grand old party to file a copy of its annual audit report for 2013-14 within 30 days of receipt of its letter.

A few days back, EC had suspended the recognition of P.A. Sangma’s National People’s Party for not filing its expenditure statement for 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

According to a report by a leading English daily, a senior commission official indicated that the Congress could face a fate similar to National People’s Party in case it failed to abide by its instructions.

Reportedly, 4 national parties and 28 state parties have already submitted their annual audit reports for 2013- 14 and others are expected to do so after recently being reminded for the third time by EC.

Apart from Congress, even BJP is yet to file its audited annual accounts. However unlike Congress, it hasn’t challenged commission’s transparency guidelines.

Congress, reportedly, had sent a letter to EC on May 15 arguing that the party was already filing its annual audit report along with income tax returns. Section 29C of the RP Act only required parties to submit their annual contribution reports in respect of contributions in excess of Rs 20,000, and there was no requirement to furnish an annual audit report.

“The guidelines issued by the commission cannot override statutory provision…such guidelines are not legally enforceable nor can be implemented until and unless amendment is carried out in the principal Act (RP Act),” said the Congress.

In response to this letter, EC referred to a 1978 Supreme Court verdict in M S Gill Vs the Chief Election Commissioner, underlining that Article 324(1) gave EC residuary powers “in the infinite variety of situations that may emerge from time to time in a large democracy as ours”.

Reportedly it also referred to a 2002 judgment of the SC in Union of India Vs ADR, which said that EC’s jurisdiction is wide enough to include all powers necessary for smooth conduct of elections.

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.