New Delhi, October 3, 2017

Petition challenges changes in statutes

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre and the Election Commission to respond to a petition challenging the various amendments made through Finance Act 2017 and Finance Act 2016 in various statutes, saying these changes have opened the floodgates for unlimited corporate and foreign donations to political parties.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra issued notice on the petition filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms and Common Cause seeking to strike down the amendments made to the Companies Act, the Income Tax Act, the Representation of the People Act, the Reserve Bank of India Act and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

The petitioners, represented by Prashant Bhushan and Neha Rathi, said the amendments, introduced as money Bills, legitimise electoral corruption, while ensuring complete non-transparency in political funding.

“The amendments in question have opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which can have serious repercussions on the Indian democracy. The said amendments have removed the caps on campaign donations by companies and have legalised anonymous donations,” the plea said.

It said the Finance Act of 2017 has introduced the use of electoral bonds, which is exempt from disclosure under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, opening doors to unchecked, unknown funding to political parties.

The petition said the Finance Act, 2016 has also amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, to allow foreign companies with subsidiaries in India to fund political parties in India, effectively, exposing the Indian politics and democracy to international lobbyists who may want to further their agenda.

“These amendments pose a serious danger to the autonomy of the country and are bound to adversely affect electoral transparency, encourage corrupt practices in politics and have made the unholy nexus between politics and corporate houses more opaque and treacherous and is bound to be misused by special interest groups and corporate lobbyists,” the petition said.

[The Hindu]