The Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley performed a neat and quiet job. Buried in the fine print of the Finance Bill 2016, he tweeked a section that, in effect, let both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress off the hook from accepting donations from companies based abroad.
In 2014, the Delhi High Court had ruled that both the parties have been guilty of violating the rules laid out in the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act 2010 (FCRA) and ordered the government and the Election Commission to take immediate action against two parties. The FCRA bans political parties from receiving funds from any foreign source. In its original provision, the law defines foreign source to include any company with foreign investment of above 50%. Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley’s clever-by-half amendment says, “‘Provided that where the nominal value of share capital is within the limits specified for foreign investments under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, or the rules and regulations made there under, then, notwithstanding the nominal value of the share capital of a company being more than one half of such value at the time of making the contribution, such company shall not be deemed a foreign source.”
This allows companies like Vendanta to pour money in the kitty of these political parties.
To discuss this controversial issue and its implications –at a time when the Modi regime is out to stiffle dissent and the legitimate functioning of rights driven organisations in the non-governmental sector – NewsClick interviewed Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate who also represents the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).