Congress, BJP get court notice on foreign funding
The Delhi High Court has sought response from both political parties within three weeks.
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday issued notice to the Congress and the BJP on a plea seeking directive for a CBI or SIT probe for allegedly taking donations from subsidiaries of Britain-based Vedanta Group. A division bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Indermeet Kaur sought response from both political parties within three weeks and posted the matter for March 19.
The court earlier sought response from the home ministry and the Election Commission saying it will go through their responses before asking the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to respond.
The poll panel told the court that it had written twice to the Home Ministry but got no response. The central government in turn said the Congress and BJP have been asked to file a reply. The Election Commission wrote to the home ministry September 28, 2012, forwarding complaints that certain political parties had received foreign sources in violation of the law.
"However, no reply/action taken report was received prompting the Commission to send a reminder Jan 11," said Ashish Chakraborty, secretary in the Election Commission. A PIL filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms and EAS Sarma, a former secretary in the central government, alleged that Indian laws had been violated by the Congress and BJP by allegedly receiving funding from Vedanta Resources.
The two parties breached the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), the PIL alleged. The Representation of the People Act prohibits political parties from taking donations from government companies and from foreign sources, the PIL said.
The FCRA prohibits any financial contribution from any foreign source or company to a political party registered in India. The PIL said the Britain-based Vedanta Resources and its subsidiary companies in India - including Sterlite Industries, Sesa Goa and Malco - "have donated several crores of rupees to major political parties like the Congress and the BJP".
It has asked the central government to "confiscate the illegal donations under the supervision of the high court". According to Vedanta's 2012 annual report, it made political donations to the tune of $2.01 million in 2011-12, the PIL said. "Sterlite's annual report of 2011-12 also states that during the year the group made political donations in India of Rs 5 crore either through a trust or directly."
The PIL alleged that since Finance Minister P Chidambaram was a director in Vedanta till May 2004, the government might not take any action against the group on its own. "Till recently he (Chidambaram) was the home minister in charge of ensuring the implementation of FCRA. He did not take any action against Vedanta or the Congress with whom he is associated. "He is now the finance minister under whose charge income tax exemptions are being given to Vedanta and the Congress for the illegal donations," the PIL said.
Therefore, a court-monitored investigation is required as the Union of India is unlikely to proceed against major political parties or corporate groups like Vedanta on its own." The PIL asked the central government to cancel the income tax exemption given to political parties and corporate groups for donations made in violation of the law of the land.