Business Standard
New Delhi

The  High  Tuesday gave the "final opportunity" to the home ministry to file its response on a plea seeking a directive for a or SIT probe into the  or the  allegedly taking donations from subsidiaries of the -based Vedanta Group.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Vibhu Bakhru also asked both the political parties to file their responses within three weeks and posted the matter for Aug 21.

The bench expressed displeasure of not receiving reply from the home ministry despite its previous order and said it is providing final opportunity to it to file an affidavit in the case.

The court took note of the contentions made by advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Association for Democratic Reforms and E.A.S. Sarma, a former secretary in the central government, that the ministry has not been filing the reply in the case despite court's repeated orders.

"The petition was filed in February, the matter was again take up in March and now its July... Why the ministry is not filing its reply?" asked Bhushan.

The court had 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 had already filed its response and told the court that it had written twice to the home ministry but got no response.

The PIL filed by NGO 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, while the FCRA prohibits any financial contribution from any foreign source or company to a political party registered in India, it said.

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.

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