Centre stalling action against Congress, BJP for foreign contributions, ADR tells SC

New Delhi, Aug 23 (IANS) NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that while the central government was hauling up NGOs for allegedly misutilising funds received from overseas sources, but was stalling the action against Congress and BJP for accepting donations from foreign companies which is prohibited under the law.

“While NGOs are being hit for violating the provision of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976 (FCRA Act) but they (centre) are stalling the implementation” of the Delhi High Court verdict directing action against Congress and BJP for accepting contribution from foreign companies, counsel Prashant Bhushan told the bench of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice Arun Mishra.

Bhushan, appearing for ADR, said this as counsel for the central government sought adjournment of the hearing saying that Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who is appearing in the matter, was not available. Even the counsel for Congress too had sought an adjournment.

While adjourning the matter, the bench directed its hearing on September 14 and 15 and made it clear that it would not entertain any request for adjournment.

Addressing the court, Bhushan said that both Congress and BJP received money from the companies which were subsidiaries of foreign companies registered outside India, referring to Sterlite Industries and Sesa Goa – subsidiaries of Britain-based Vedanta Resources Plc.

However, both Congress and BJP have disputed this position stating that even though Sterlite Industries and Sesa Goa were subsidiaries of Vedanta Resources Plc but 51 of its shares were owned by Indian citizen Anil Agarwal. This position was backed by the central government before the high court and is being reiterated before the top court.

The Election Commission in its response has told the top court that it was the Central government which can investigate the allegations of violation of FCRA, 1976 and FCRA, 2010.

Principally it was the Union Home Ministry which could investigate and determine if any offence is committed by any political party on contravention of the provisions of these acts read with Section 29(b) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 and take necessary penal action, it said, adding it had already apprised the Home Minister of its position through a communication on September 22, 2014.

The top court had issued notice to the Centre and the Election Commission on August 22 and November 21, 2014 on the plea by the Congress and BJP respectively, challenging the March 28, 2014, Delhi High Court judgment holding that both have flouted the FCRA, 1976’s section 4(1) (e) which says that mo foreign contribution shall be accepted by any political party or its office-bearer.

The high court by its verdict had held that Vedanta is a foreign company within the meaning of the Companies Act, 1956 and therefore, Vedanta and its subsidiaries are a foreign source as contemplated under the act.

“Prima facie the acts of the respondents (Congress and BJP) inter se, clearly fall foul of the ban imposed under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act as the donations accepted by the political parties from Sterlite and Sesa accrue from ‘foreign sources’ within the meaning of law,” it had ruled in response to a PIL by the ADR.



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