Amendment Allows Indian Political Parties to Escape Scrutiny Over Foreign Funds
The amendment allows political parties to escape scrutiny over foreign funding received since 1976.
The Indian government has passed, without a debate, a bill that will exempt political parties from scrutiny of funds they may have received from abroad in the last 42 years, NDTV reported. This was one of the 218 amendments passed bypassing the debate on March 13, amid protests by some of the Opposition members. The bypassing of debate was done via a parliamentary procedure called the “guillotine,” which empowers the Lok Sabha speaker to pass grants without discussion.
The Representation of the People Act prevents political parties from accepting foreign funds so that the government is clear of foreign influence. However, in 2010, amendments to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act made foreign donations to political parties legal.
Now, the amendment to Finance Bill 2018 considers all the foreign contributions received by political parties before 2010 not illegal under the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act (FCRA). This amendment, supported both by the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress, makes political parties who have accepted foreign funds since 1976 outside the scope of judicial scrutiny by substituting “26th September, 2010” in the FCRA Act with “5th August 1976.”
As per a Delhi High Court ruling in 2014, both the political parties have been found guilty of illegally accepting foreign funds. The ruling revealed that between the years 2004 and 2012 both parties received funding from the United Kingdom-based company Vedanta Resources Plc via its Indian subsidiaries.
The changes in the FCRA Act as part of Finance Bill scrapped the ceiling for contributions and made it unnecessary to record the name of the recipient.
“It may be technically legal but was certainly inappropriate,” Jagdeep Chhokar, founder of Delhi-based Association for Democratic Reforms was quoted by Bloomberg as saying. “And the amendment of a 42-year-old law that frees India’s biggest political parties from legal scrutiny on receiving overseas political funding was done in a dubious way. All of it was done in half an hour. No questions asked.”
The session also increased salaries, daily allowances and pensions of members of Parliament by a cumulative Rs 55,000 to reach Rs 127,000 per month with effect from April 1, 2018, while the salaries of the president and state governors were increased by a cumulative Rs 350,000 and Rs 240,000, respectively, with arrears from January 2016.