Will Scrap Electoral Bonds, Strengthen RTI: Congress Manifesto Puts Major Emphasis on Transparency
To make governance more transparent and accountable, Congress promised to provide report card on manifesto promises annually.
The Congress party’s manifesto — “Hum Nibhayenge” — speaks about the importance of both institutions and transparency. The party mentioned, “Never before have the institutions that underpin a parliamentary democracy been so brazenly undermined, denigrated and captured as in the last five years.”
“Congress promises that selection and appointment to these bodies will be transparent and will be with due regard to the importance of institutional integrity,” the party said, referring to the Reserve Bank of India, Central Vigilance Commission, Election Commission of India, Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, Central Information Commission, National Statistics Commission and National Human Rights Commission. The party promised to restore the dignity, authority and autonomy of these institutions while making them accountable to Parliament.
On the contentious Aadhaar issue, the party said, “Congress promises to amend the Aadhaar Act, 2016, in order to restrict the use of Aadhaar to subsidies, benefits and services provided by the government as was originally intended under the law.”
They have also promised that regarding the “inherent limitations” of biometric identification, other instruments of ID would be allowed under the law. Not only would the linking of Aadhaar be voluntary, no one would be excluded because of non-linking of Aadhaar, the party said.
Lokpal and corruption
On the issue of Lokpal, the manifesto states that “appointments to the Lokpal will be made in accordance with the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013,” adding that the leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and, in the absence of such a leader, the leader of the largest Opposition party would be a full-fledged member of the selection committee.
On transparency in defence expenses, the Congress pledged that it would expedite all modernisation programmes of the armed forces transparently.
Further, with an intention to make governance more transparent, result-oriented and accountable, the Congress party promised to place before the people a statement on the implementation of manifesto promises annually. Social audits of the programmes taken up for implementation will be conducted and placed before the people, at the end of every year, with a report card on achievements and what remains to be done.
The Congress party also pledged to introduce the requirement of public consultation before a Bill is introduced in Parliament, and added that “all government schemes and programmes shall be subjected to social audit. Congress promises to enact a Social Accountability Act.”
On the Right to Information Act, 2005, the party said it would omit provisions that may have diluted the Act and add provisions to strengthen the Act. In accordance with the letter and spirit of the Act, Congress promised to appoint qualified persons drawn from different sections of the society as Information Commissioners. The party also said that the rules under the Whistle-Blowers Protection Act, 2014 will be made to operationalise the Act. Congress promises to ensure that the law is not weakened or diluted.
Talking about the Judiciary, the party said that “learned, independent and upright judges are the core of the judiciary,” adding that it would establish a National Judicial Commission (NJC) that would be responsible for the selection of judges for appointment to the High Courts and the Supreme Court.
The NJC, per the manifesto, would be comprised of judges, jurists and parliamentarians and will be serviced by a secretariat. Names of suitable candidates would be placed in the public domain, and the reasons for selection will be published to ensure that the entire process is transparent.
But the pièce de résistance in terms of transparency in the manifesto is the one regarding electoral bonds. The Congress party promised to scrap the opaque Electoral Bond Scheme that was designed to favour the present ruling party — the BJP.