Persons booked for serious offences should be debarred from contesting elections if charges have been framed by a competent court, the offence is punishable by imprisonment of at least five years and the case is at least six months prior to the election , Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) OP Rawat said here on Monday. 

The CEC also proposed to make bribery a cognizable offence and to countermand elections on grounds of bribery. 

He was speaking at the annual national conference of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the Karnataka Election Watch (KEW) at IIM-Bangalore. The two-day event focused on the grave necessity to address the most pressing problems in the electoral and political arena. 

The Election Commission, Rawat said, should be authorised to issue necessary orders regulating registration and de-registration of political parties as many political parties register perhaps to avail income tax exemptions, but never contest any elections. Furthermore, the Commission proposed that income tax exemption should be available only to political parties that contest elections. 

The CEC also said parties should statutorily be required to submit their audited accounts to the Commission. A panel of accountants maintained by the Comptroller and Auditor General should audit these accounts and make them available in the public domain for further scrutiny. 
On electoral bonds, the CEC said the Commission has written to the Government of India drawing attention to the amendment to Section 29C of the Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951 carried out vide the Finance Act, 2016 that excludes electoral bonds from the requirement of reporting. 

The CEC said that this would affect the transparency of political finance. The Commission also recommended reconsidering the amendments introduced in the Companies Act omitting the limit of 7.5% of companies’ average net profits in the preceding three financial years. The Commission suggested that a provision should be made in the Companies Act to declare party-wise contributions made by companies in the profit and loss account, in order to bring transparency in fundraising  by political parties.

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