Prachi Gohil, Roving Editor
The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization which works for the electoral and political reforms with one purpose: to bring democratic reforms in India through political and electoral advocacy. In simple terms, this organization aims to maintain transparency and liability in Indian politics by minimizing the use of money and force.
ADR came into existence in 1999 when a group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and Bangalore filed a Public Interest Litigation (an agreement with the principles enshrined in Article 39A of the Constitution of India to protect and deliver prompt social justice with the help of law) with the Delhi High Court regarding the disclosure of the criminal, financial and educational background of the candidates contesting elections.
This organization works in a field pertaining to the political system of the country: Corruption and Criminalization in the Political Process, and Empowerment of the electorate through greater dissemination of information relating to the candidates and the parties, for a better and informed choice need for greater accountability of Indian Political Parties and need for inner-party democracy and transparency in party-functioning. Election Watch, as part of this program, affidavits of candidates contesting elections are minutely examined and citizens are provided with the information about their background details to help them make an informed choice.
The Election Watch, since 2000, has collated data of about 90,000 elected representatives. This data can be accessed easily on websites like http://www.myneta.info. They also examine the election expenses declared by elected representatives, and the data is released to the media, making it accessible to citizens.
ADR also analyzes Register of Members’ interest of the Rajya Sabha, which was brought into the public domain in June 2011, after ADR’s two-year-long RTI battle. The report contains information regarding remunerative directorship, shareholding of controlling nature, regular remunerative activity, paid consultancy and professional engagement of Rajya Sabha members. Legal Advocacy ADR takes up various issues in the light of good governance by filing relevant complaints and appeals and PILs or writs with Central Information Commission, Supreme Court or High Court, as well as other Central and State agencies.
ADR also attends various consultations or round-tables with bodies like the Law Commission of India, the Election Commission of India, the Lok Sabha, and the Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Dissemination of Information Citizens can easily access complete information on criminal records, assets, liabilities, and educational qualifications of contesting candidates, elected representatives and various political parties using the many services.
Achievements so far:
May 2002 and March 2003: ADR’s petition resulted in two milestone judgments from the Supreme Court that made it mandatory for candidates contesting elections to file self-sworn affidavits declaring their assets and criminal antecedents.
April 2008: ADR obtained a landmark ruling from the Central Information Commission (CIC) stating that income tax returns of political parties would now be available in the public domain along with the assessment orders.
June 2013: The CIC delivered a landmark judgment that brought six national political parties under the ambit of the RTI Act declaring them ‘public authorities.’ This is one of the biggest achievements of ADR.
September 2013: ADR had also intervened in the petition filed by Common Cause for having a separate button on the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) with the option of ‘None of the Above (NOTA).’ The Supreme Court gave a favourable ruling on Sept. 27, 2013 and the NOTA button was inserted in the EVM machines for the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
May 2014: The Delhi High Court issued notices to the Government of India and the Election Commission on a petition filed by ADR to monitor election expenditure of political parties. Electing a candidate to represent your region, is in your hands – only if you’d debate about the potential candidates as much as you’d discuss your dinner menu with friends.