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Focus 360 Editorial March 3

Campaigning on a budget – OPINION – The Hindu

  • To keep election expenditure transparent and in check, the executive-legislature dynamic must be addressed
    • There is a considerable body of thinking in India that political funding is the nodal centre of unaccounted and illicit money transfers, and is the primary cause of corruption of the body politic.
    • Political funding need not be limited to party funding and may encompass election expenditure of candidates at various tiers, federal, state and local.
  • In India, much of the known extent of corruption is strongly associated with the bureaucracy, command organs, public sector, and other constitutional and statutory bodies.
  • Even civil society institutions such as the media can act both as the conduit of corruption or harbour it as such
  • All political corruption involves an unfair, and most often unlawful, use of public office to secure a private gain.
  • Political funding in India
  • In India political parties are expected to file their income tax returns every year although they do not have to pay income tax.
    • According to a recent report to the Right to Information Act, the Association for Democratic Reforms found that the total income of all political parties in India from 2004-05 to 2014-15 was Rs. 11,367.34 crore, in which the share of the Congress and the BJP was more than half.
    • Till recently political parties were required to disclose donations only for amounts higher than Rs. 20,000. Which makes 69%, of the income of political parties, came from unknown sources, and this segment has been steadily on the rise during this period.
    • For some regional parties, more than three-fourths of income came from unknown sources.
      • While the income of national parties increased by 313% from such sources during this period, that of regional parties increased by 652%
  • It is also important to bear in mind that the corporate sector in India that contributes to political party kitties has generally not favoured the disclosure of the name of the donor, for obvious reasons.
  • The recent Budget announcement of the Finance Minister that every cash donation above Rs. 2,000 needs to be acknowledged in the IT returns further constrains the flow of funds to parties other than a ruling party.
  • Funding of elections (Some Data)
    • We can safely assume that an MLA spends on an average about Rs. 5 crore to get elected. The legal limit of Rs. 28 lakh is far off this mark.
    • An amount of about Rs. 15 crore will be spent in each constituency, which with about 4,215 MLAs in India works out to an about Rs. 13,000 crore per annum.
  • The way out
    • The key to regulating political funding, therefore, lies in bringing down election expenditure and ensuring that it provides an opportunity to get the best public men and women to participate in the institutional life of Indian democracy.
    • One of the ways suggested for the purpose is holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha as well as the State Assemblies.
    • Better and close monitoring of the election process by the Election Commission has ensured that overt modes of violation at the hustings are checked. But political entrepreneurs have always found ways of subverting official vigilance and spend lavishly to gain competitive advantage.
    • Citizen activism that keeps a close watch over campaigning. But in the longer run, political patronage itself needs to be reined in.

The right to choice – OPINION – The Hindu

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill of 2014 relaxes the legal limit for abortion
  • Two Recent Cases.
  1. The Supreme Court declined a woman’s plea to abort her 26-week-old foetus detected with Down’s Syndrome. The court refused permission for the abortion, calling the foetus “a life”. It said the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 places a 20-week ceiling on termination of pregnancy.
  2. In January, the same Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao had relaxed the 20-week cap to permit another woman to terminate her 24-week pregnancy. The foetus in that case was diagnosed with anencephaly — a congenital defect in which the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. The court had said abortion was necessary to preserve the woman’s life. In the case of the foetus with Down’s Syndrome, the court said the foetus posed no danger to the woman’s life.

What draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill of 2014 says?

    • Had the draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill of 2014 been implemented as law, this case would not have come to court at all
    • The Bill amends Section 3 of the principal Act of 1971 to provide that “the length of pregnancy shall not apply” in a decision to abort a foetus diagnosed with “substantial foetal abnormalities as may be prescribed
    • Besides increasing the legal limit for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks, the draft Bill allows a woman to take an independent decision in consultation with a registered health-care provider.
  • Under the 1971 Act, even pregnant rape victims cannot abort after 20 weeks, compelling them to move court.
    • “risk to the life of the pregnant woman” and “grave injury to her physical and mental health”.
  • Legal experts have argued that medical science and technology have made the 20-week ceiling redundant and that conclusive determination of foetal abnormality is possible in most cases after the 20th week of gestational age.