Amendment to Companies Act shall kill fair elections: Ex-Bureaucrat

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Visakhapatnam, March 23 (IANS) A former senior bureaucrat has warned that the removal of the cap on company donations to political parties and allowing companies to keep the names of the parties confidential will spell disaster for the concept of free and fair elections.

E.A.S. Sarma, a former Secretary to the Indian government, said the latest amendment to the Companies Act will open floodgates to the company donations to political parties and taint the country’s elections.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, he said the latest Finance Act, introduced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and approved with little discussion by the NDA-dominated Parliament, had belied his hope of reforms to cleanse the electoral process.

The amendment removed the cap on company donations and it allows the companies to keep the names of the political parties confidential in their accounts.

The retired IAS officer said there will be free-for-all for both domestic and foreign companies to manipulate the electoral system.

“It is ironic that your government should once again choose the Finance Act as the vehicle for the backdoor introduction of such a regressive and potentially dangerous proposal to be approved by the Parliament with inadequate discussion,” wrote Sarma, who has been fighting for electoral and democratic reforms.

“I appeal to your conscience not to open the floodgates to company donations to political parties, that too anonymous donations, as such a step will spell disaster for the very concept of free and fair elections that lies at the core of our Constitution,” he said.

Sarma referred to the letters written to Modi last year suggesting a number of reforms to be undertaken by the government if it was earnest about its campaign against corruption.

Sarma had called for revoking the retrospective amendment to the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA 2010), made through the backdoor of the Finance Act, 2016, that opened the floodgates to foreign company donations to political parties.

He had also stressed the need to amend the Companies Act to prohibit companies from giving donations to political parties.

–IANS

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