ADR: Ushering Democratic and Electoral Reforms

These days, during elections, you usually get to know information such as the financial assets of a candidate and his/her criminal record, if any. However, this information was not always easily available earlier. It is thanks to an interesting body called the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) that we are now able to get such information about our political candidates.

Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) was established in 1999 by a group of professors from IIM-Ahmedabad to build a fair and transparent electoral and political process. ADR filed 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.

The Government of India and other political parties were quick to oppose such a bill, citing concerns (perhaps some of which are legitimate including false criminal implications).

However, the Supreme Court of India 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 to submit their nomination form along with the affidavits containing:

  • Criminal cases pending against them, if any
  • Financial assests of the candidate, his/her spouse and dependents
  • Educational qualifications & financial liabilities of the candidate

ADR, in its quest for improving governance and strengthening democracy, is broadly working on two programs:

  1. Electoral Process Reform:  The National Election Watch (NEW) is a nationwide campaign comprising of more than 1200 NGOs and other citizen led organizations. Election watch activities comprise of collecting data from the affidavits filed by contesting candidates in the elections and collating this information in a manner that is lucid and then dissemination the information via media. Check out www.nationalelectionwatch.org to know more.Then, they have started the site myneta.info which aims to provide information to citizens of the country regarding contestants during elections ( both Lok Sabha and State Assembly) in a timely and user-friendly way to enable the citizens to make an informed choice. Users can search for information based on name of candidate, constituency and state.

    SMS campaign: A week before the elections, if you want to know more about the candidates contesting in your constituency, just sms MYNETA <PINCODE> to 56070. The message will provide information about the candidate ( criminal and other background information) from the constituency containing that pincode .

    There is also a toll free help line: 1-800-110-440

  2. Political Process Reform: Political parties function as the key link between people and their representatives, 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. The Chief Information officer 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 working on creating an environment for bringing political parties under the ambit of law.
To know more about ADR and to read about their latest activities, please visit www.adrindia.org.
Want to volunteer for their programs? You can easily do so by filling up this form.
Images courtesy www.adrindia.org