Hindustan Times
Chetan Chauhan
New Delhi

The Delhi high court on Monday asked home ministry to take final decision on the issue of political parties receiving money from foreign entities in violation of law within three weeks after the Election Commission expressed its inability to act against the parties

Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in 2012 had found that both Congress and BJP had received money from Vedanta Group, a company registered in London and a foreign entity and sought action against them from the court.

The Representation of People's Act prohibits the parties from receiving any contribution from foreign or government sources but does not give powers to the commission to initiate legal action for any violation.

The Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act makes receive foreign contribution without home ministry's approval a criminal offence.

The political parties are required to submit their annual financial statements to the commission every year if they want to seek income tax rebate on any contribution of more than Rs. 20,000.

But, the commission has no powers to investigate the source of the money.

"It is for the union government to investigate if there is any offence committed by the political party, or the public sector undertakings or the corporate, and to what penal action is called for or has been taken for any violation noticed," the commission said in the affidavit filed before the court.

The commission suggestion to change rules to make political parties declare not having received foreign contribution has not been accepted by the government as yet.

Giving credence to ADR claim in the public interest litigation, the commission had forwarded the statement of records of political parties since 2004 to the home ministry, mandated to regulate foreign contributions, and asked the ministry to take "action as may be deemed proper".

A reminder was sent in January but the ministry failed to respond.

In an affidavit submitted in the court, the ministry said that response on the alleged violation has been received from the Congress while the BJP was yet to reply.

Prashant Bhushan, lawyer for the NGO, argued that the court was dragging its feet because the political parties that run the government have themselves committed serious criminal offences. He sought an independent inquiry as there was an inherent conflict of interest in this case.

Concluding the hearing, the court issued asked the government, the election commission and the two recipients of foreign contribution the Congress and the BJP to submit its reply within three weeks.

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