Thursday, December 8, 2016
Foreign Funding: ADR writes to MHA and ECI, urges them to implement Delhi High Court’s ruling against Congress and BJP on FCRA violation.
New Delhi: Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has written letters (attached) to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Election Commission (ECI) urging them to implement and comply with the directions of the Delhi High Court and take action against two national parties BJP and Congress as ‘contemplated by law’ within a specified period of six months. ADR, in its letters has specifically highlighted Para 73 of the Delhi High Court’s order, which states; “73. For the reasons extensively highlighted in the preceding paragraphs, we have no hesitation in arriving at the view that prima-facie the acts of the respondents inter-se, as highlighted in the present petition, clearly fall foul of the ban imposed under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976 as the donations accepted by the political parties from Sterlite and Sesa accrue from ‘Foreign Sources’ within the meaning of law.” The Delhi High Court in its judgment dated 28th March, 2014 had found both Congress and BJP prima facie guilty of accepting foreign funds and violating the provisions of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976. (Click here) Against the High Court’s order, Congress and BJP had separately filed Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) in the Supreme Court on 26 June, 2014, and 26 August, 2014 respectively, and consequently the matter became sub judice. The SLPs in the Supreme Court were “dismissed as withdrawn” on November 29, 2016. (Click here). In view of the fact that now the Delhi HC order of March 28, 2014 has attained finality and it has been re-affirmed in a way, it is imperative that ECI, as a constitutional body and MHA as an administering authority under FCRA should act and take action against these two national parties for violating the FCRA within a specified time as directed by the High Court. Section 23(1) of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976 calls for a penal action for the contravention of any provision of the act. The relevant Section reads as follows; “whoever accepts, or assists any person, political party or organisation in accepting any foreign contribution or any currency from a foreign source, in contravention of any provision of this Act or any rule made thereunder, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.” ECI being the Constitutional authority to conduct free and fair elections in the country, it has the powers to either suspend or withdraw the recognition of a political party under Section 16 (A)(b) of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968. The relevant Section reads as follows; “to follow or carry out the lawful directions and instructions of the Commission given from time to time with a view to furthering the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections or safeguarding the interests of the general public and the electorate in particular, the Commission may, after taking into account all the available facts and circumstances of the case and after giving the party reasonable opportunity of showing cause in relation to the action proposed to be taken against it, either suspend, subject to such terms as the Commission may deem appropriate, or withdraw the recognition of such party as the National Party or, as the case may be, the State Party.” ADR in its letter, addressed to MHA, has also stated that if “action as contemplated by law” is not taken within a reasonable time, the inescapable conclusion will be that the verdict of the Hon’ble Delhi HC is not being complied with wilfully, and there will be no option but to initiate proceedings for contempt of court against the MHA.