With less than a month left for the elections to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, the Congress will have to demonstrate before the Karnataka High Court the legality of its action of collecting Rs. 10,000 as party fund from its members who are aspiring for a ticket to contest the elections.
The High Court on Monday ordered issue of notices to the Election Commission of India (ECI), All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G. Parameshwara on a petition questioning the legality of collection of fund towards Assembly elections.
Justice S. Abdul Nazeer passed the order on a petition filed by V. Shashidhar, a member of the Congress and president of Akhila Karnataka Police Maha Sangha.
The petitioner has sought a direction to the election commission to frame guidelines for preventing collection of such funds by political parties, including the Congress, from ticket aspirants and others. Besides, the petitioner also sought a direction to the ECI to conduct probe by an independent agency into the collection of funds and the manner of selection of candidates by the Congress based on his complaint sent to the ECI through e-mail on April 3.
Meanwhile, ECI counsel told the court that it was an intra-party matter when the court asked him to take notice on behalf of the ECI. However, the court orally observed that “it is a serious matter”.
Against party’s constitution
The petitioner said that he wanted to contest elections from Yelahanka Assembly constituency and submitted an application for party’s ticket along with Rs. 100 as application fee and Rs. 10,000 as party fund for Assembly election 2013 for which the party has issued receipt.
He pointed out that there were about 2,500 such aspirants for the 224 Assembly constituencies in the State from whom the party has collected similar amount.
Interestingly, the petitioner claimed that collection of fund from party members towards Assembly elections was contrary to the constitution of the Congress Party and the Rules, as amended with effect from November 17, 2007 by the All India Congress Committee (AICC).
He claimed that as per Article VII of the party’s constitution, each member shall have to contribute to the party fund certain percentage of his income, as prescribed in the rules by the working committee. And as per the rules, each member shall contribute Rs. 1 per month for net monthly income up to Rs. 500, and 1 cent of net monthly income above Rs. 500.
Pointing out that the rules also spell out the manner of distribution of party fund, the petitioner has pointed out that 50 per cent of the total contribution received from members would be reserved for Central Election Fund, 25 per cent for AICC, and 12.5 per cent each for the Pradesh and District Congress Committees respectively.
The petitioner contended that party’s constitution and rules do not permit collection of amount for party fund towards Assembly elections from its members, including ticket aspirants.
Stating that the party was given “100 per cent exemption from payment of income tax,” the petitioner said that though the ECI has guideline for election expenditure, there was lack of guidelines for selection of candidates.