Friday, February 11, 2011

Know your MLA,MP better : Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)

Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) was established in August 1999 by a group of Professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. It started working on building fair and transparent electoral and political processes in the country by filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in August 1999 in the Delhi High Court asking for mandatory disclosure of criminal, financial and educational background of candidates contesting elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures, prior to the polls. In November 2000, ADR got its first achievement when the Delhi High Court gave its judgment in favor of ADR. The Government of India however challenged the PIL in December 2000 opposing the Delhi High Court. Several political parties also intervened in the matter favoring the stand taken by the government. After a long discussion and hearing, the Supreme Court of India in May 2002, rejected the Government of India’s appeal and asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to issue orders making it necessary for candidates nominating themselves in elections to Parliament and State Assemblies to submit their nomination forms along with the affidavits containing the following information: 
·         Affidavits of candidates with their criminal cases pending against them, if any
·         Financial assets of the candidate,
·         Financial assets of candidate’s spouse and his/her dependents,
·         Financial liabilities and educational qualifications of the candidate.d

Know Your Neta

     Taking forward our efforts to enable people to know their candidates better and make informed choices, all the information regarding criminal and financial details of the contestants declared by them in their affidavits has been made available on e

In order to prevent and dilute the Supreme Court’s order, the Union Government of India decided to issue an Ordinance in August 2002, amending the Representation of the People’s Act 1951. ADR challenged the ordinance and amendment of act in October 2002, seeking its constitutional validity of the amendment to the Representation of People’s Act. In March 2003, the Supreme Court of India gave a landmark judgment by restoring its May 2002 judgment and declaring the amendment of the Representation of People’s Act as ‘illegal, null and void’. Subsequently, in order to fulfill the Supreme Court’s judgment, the Election Commission of India passed orders making such declarations mandatory for the State, Panchayat and Local Bodies’ elections. Since then, ADR has been doing Election Watches in almost all State Assembly and Lok Sabha elections – focusing on the issues of criminalization, corruption and the use of money power in politics. It continues to work towards strengthening democracy and governance in India by focusing on fair and transparent electoral and political processes. Recently, it has also taken several initiatives to make our political parties more transparent and accountable.

‘Improving and Strengthening Democracy in India’ is the motto of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). ADR specifically focuses on:
        Working actively towards Electoral and Political Reforms,
·         Working towards strengthening Right to Information as a tool and facilitating the process for attaining greater transparency of those people who are in power,
·         Mobilizing public opinion, facilitating a dialogue between policy makers and civil society organizations for the empowerment of citizens.

What ADR do?

ADR, in its quest for improving governance and strengthening democracy, is implementing activities that can be broadly categorized under two programs –

        Electoral Process Reform

Election Watch of Parliament and State Assembly elections is more or less a continued activity of ADR. Under the Election Watch of Parliament and State Assembly elections, ADR discloses background (criminal, financial and educational) of candidates who are contesting elections. Since the landmark judgment of Supreme Court, ADR has done election watches for almost all State Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the country. ADR has also successfully mobilized and networked with a large number of civil society organizations all over the country. This, in turn, has helped in taking the campaign to grass roots while strengthening our network across the country. ADR has also got great support from the various media organizations. All our press releases and reports have been extensively covered by the media – both the print and visual.

·         Political Process Reform

ADR has also expanded its agenda to encompass political process reforms. Political parties function as the key link between the people and their representatives, and thus, in their structure and working, political parties must adhere to democratic norms and transparency. ADR sought disclosure of financial information by the political parties, in line with the recommendations of the Indrajit Gupta Committee Report (1998) on state funding of election expenses and the 170th report of the Law Commission. The Chief Information Commissioner vide his order dated April 29, 2008, has held that copies of the Income Tax returns of the political parties filed with the public authorities and the assessment orders passed on them will be available to the citizens. Taking it forward, ADR has been scrutinizing the copies of the IT returns of political parties collected using RTI. ADR has also been working on the creating an environment for bringing political parties under the ambit of law.