Controversial foreign funding to political parties which will allow them to escape scrutiny with retrospective effect for 42 years Passed in LS

The government has admitted that the amended Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, which they brought in through the Finance Bill route, will not only help foreign-origin companies to fund NGOs here but has also cleared the way for them to give “donations to political parties.”

As quoted by Minister of State (Home) Kiren Rijiju told the correspondent of The Hindu that the amendment, which was cleared by the Lok Sabha in the recently concluded Budget session, will ensure that “donations made by foreign shareholding companies to entities including political parties will not attract provisions of the FCRA, 2010.”

The statement assumes significance as such funding from foreign donors will bypass government scrutiny. The Representation of the People Act bars political parties from receiving foreign funds.

Retrospective effect

Both the BJP and the Congress have supported the amendment. They have been accused by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) of illegally receiving foreign funds for political activities from U.K.-based Vedanta Group from 2004 to 2012, thereby violating FCRA provisions and the case is being heard in the Supreme Court. The government has brought the changes with retrospective effect.

No scrutiny

The Representation of People’s Act, which lays down the rules for elections, bars political parties from accepting foreign funds. But the 2016 amendments in the FCRA made it easier for parties to accept foreign funds. The 2018 amendment completely does away with the scope for scrutiny of a political party’s funding for the last 42 years.

The Delhi High Court had in 2014 indicted the two national parties, the Congress and the BJP, for receiving foreign funds in violation of the provisions of the FCRA.

A division bench comprising Justice Nandrajog and Justice Jayant Nath had asked the Government and the Election Commission to act against the two political parties for accepting foreign funds from Vedanta subsidiaries. The verdict came on a PIL filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms and argued by lawyer and political activist Prashant Bhushan.

Reacting to the amendment, Bhushan said on twitter: “Finance Bill contained many smuggled changes… .”

Source: The Hindu Business Line