Association for Democratic Reforms

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Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)
Abbreviation ADR
Motto "No office in this land is more important than that of being a citizen" -Felix Franfurter
Formation 1999; 15 years ago (1999)
Type NGO
Purpose Bringing Democratic Reforms in India through Political and Electoral advocacy
Headquarters T-95A,C.L House, 1st Floor
Near Gulmohar Commercial Complex,
Gautam Nagar (Landmark: Green Park Metro Station (Gautam Nagar Exit),
New Delhi-110049
Location
Region served India
Membership Open for all[1]
Key people Prof Jagdeep Chhokar, Prof Trilochan Sastry, Ajit Ranade
Staff 30-40
Volunteers 1200 NGOs[2]
Website adrindia.org, myneta.info

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization which works in the area of electoral and political reforms. Along with National Election Watch (NEW), which is a conglomeration of over 1200 organizations across the country, ADR aims at bringing transparency and accountability in Indian politics and reducing the influence of money and muscle power in elections.

History[edit]

ADR came into existence in 1999 when a group of Professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad[3] and Bangalore filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with the Delhi High Court regarding the disclosure of the criminal, financial and educational background of the candidates contesting elections. The PIL was upheld by the Delhi High Court in 2000 but the Government of India appealed to the Supreme Court of India against the High Court judgement. However, in 2002 and subsequently in 2003, the Supreme Court made it mandatory for all the candidates contesting elections to disclose their criminal, financial and educational background prior to the polls by filing an affidavit with the Election Commission of India. The process led to greater awareness among voters of criminal cases against politicians. [4]

Founders[edit]

ADR was co-founded by Prof Trilochan Sastry, Prof Jagdeep Chhokar and Ajit Ranade among the 13 founders and trustees in 1999.[5] Maj Gen (Retd) Anil Verma is currently the Head of ADR.[6]

Objective[edit]

The objective of ADR is to improve governance and strengthen democracy by continuous work in the area of Electoral and Political Reforms.[7] The ambit and scope of work in this field is enormous, hence, ADR has chosen to concentrate its efforts in the following areas pertaining to the political system of the country:

  • Corruption and Criminalization in the Political Process
  • 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
  • Need for inner-party democracy and transparency in party-functioning

Function & Research Areas[edit]

Election Watch or Analysis of Affidavits:[8] Election Watch is the flagship programme of ADR. Since 2002, National Election Watch (NEW) and ADR have been conducting Election Watches across the country. As part of this programme, 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 has so far collated data of about 90,000 elected representatives and candidates which can be accessed easily on www.myneta.info. Election Expenses of MPs and MLAs: ADR also analyses the election expenses declared by elected representatives and the data is released to the media/citizens. Register of Members’ Interest of Rajya Sabha: ADR also analyses Register of Members’ interest of the Rajya Sabha, which was brought into 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 the Rajya Sabha members.

Political Party Watch (PPW):[9] ADR’s PPW program is aimed at bringing more transparency and accountability in the functioning of political parties. In 2008, based on an appeal filed by ADR, the Central Information Commission (CIC) declared that the Income Tax Returns of political parties should be made available in the public domain by the IT Department.[10] Since then, ADR has analysed the IT returns of a total of 43 political parties of India between FY 2002-03 and 2012-13.[11] Contribution Reports of Political Parties: Under this programme, the contributions reports of political parties containing information about receipt of donations above Rs 20,000, are analysed.[12] Election Expenditure of Political Parties: ADR, through this programme, analyses the details of expenditure declared by various political parties after Lok Sabha and Assembly Elections.[13]

Legal Advocacy: ADR also resorts to legal advocacy for Political and Electoral Reforms. Time to time ADR takes up various issues in the light of good governance by filing relevant complaints/appeals and PILs/writs with Central Information Commission, Supreme Court/ High Court as well as other Central and State agencies. ADR also attends various consultations/round-tables with bodies like Law Commission of India, Election Commission of India, Lok Sabha and 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 following services:

  1. Social Media: Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube
  2. Helpline No.: 1800-110-440 (Toll-free)
  3. SMS Facility:
  • Option 1: SMS MYNETA <constituency name> to 9246556070 or 56070
  • Option 2: SMS MYNETA <pincode> to 9246556070 or 56070

Achievements[edit]

  • 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 2011: After a two year long RTI battle, crucial information on the 'Registers of Members' Interest' was finally mandated by CIC to be available in the public domain in June 2011. The Second report of the ‘Committee on Ethics’ of the Lok Sabha mentions ADR’s recommendations to instate a Register of Members’ Interest to disclose business and financial interests of the members on the same lines as that of the Rajya Sabha.
  • 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.
  • July 2013: Supreme Court delivered a Judgment on a petition filed by Lily Thomas and Lok Prahari NGO, (ADR Intervened) setting aside clause 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act due to which sitting MPs and MLAs were barred from holding office on being Convicted in a Court of Law.
  • 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 27th Sept. 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.

ADR Reports[edit]

ADR has become the single data point for information/analysis of background details (criminal, financial and others) of politicians and of financial information of political parties. In the last one year, based on ADR’s report and data, a minimum of 500 news articles were published and scores of TV discussions have taken place.[14]

Awards[edit]

Year Name of Award or Honour Awarding Organisation Reference
April 2014 NDTV Indian of the Year- India's Future NDTV [15]
March 2014 Innovation for India Awards 2014 Marico Innovation Foundation [15]
December 2013 CNN-IBN Indian of the Year Award in Public Service Category CNN-IBN [15]
January 2013 Social Impact Award in Advocacy and Empowerment The Times of India [15]
August 2012 Mobile Innovations for Good Governance Award mBillionth Award South Asia [15]
December 2011 ICT led Innovation for the Election Watch software of ADR and Webrosoft NASSCOM [15]

ADR in News[edit]

Various Press Releases by ADR

Articles in various media covering ADR

See also[edit]

References[edit]