Party to reform
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Political parties did not find mention in our Constitution until the Constitution (52nd Amendment) Act of 1985, dealing with defection and the consequent disqualification of the elected members. However, in his last address to the Constituent Assembly, B.R. Ambedkar had cautioned that in addition to "our old enemies in the form of caste and creed, we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds and if the political parties place creed above the country, our independence will be put in jeopardy for the second time and probably lost forever." In spite of this, there is still no comprehensive law in our country to regulate political parties.
The Representation of the People Act, 1951, passed within a year of the Constitution being adopted, added a chapter, as late as 1989, to deal with the registration of political parties. Although parties can be registered by the Election Commission, there is no corresponding provision for it to deregister a political party. The apex court has held that since there is no specific provision in the law, the general clauses laws do not apply and the EC cannot assume the power to deregister a party. As a result, political parties have mushroomed and today there are more than 1,396 registered parties in India.
There are instances of registered parties not carrying out any political activity. For example, the EC had referred many parties to the income tax department and in two cases it was found that they had raised substantial funds and the donors had availed of tax exemptions, but the funds had been used by such parties to purchase shares and jewellery. A large number of parties, although registered for years, have not contested in a single election. This raises serious doubts about the purpose of registration.
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