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To

Shri Rajiv Kumar
Chief Election Commissioner

Shri A C Pandey
Election Commissioner

Dear S/Shri Rajiv Kumar and Pandey,

Please refer to my last letter dated 24-6-2022 about the danger posed by money power to the integrity of the electoral processes in the country (https://countercurrents.org/2022/06/money-power-of-the-political-parties-making-a-mockery-of-the-integrity-of-the-electoral-process/) I hope that the Election Commission of India (ECI) has considered my suggestions carefully and is taking appropriate steps.

The issue has assumed utmost urgency and seriousness in view of the latest decision of the government (https://indianexpress.com/article/india/fcra-compoundable-offences-up-from-7-to-12-parties-to-judges-to-media-can-now-get-funds-from-kin-abroad-without-fear-of-prosecution-8005821/) to introduce a regressive additional amendment to the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) so as to permit the political parties to accept donations more readily from foreign sources, an amendment that will undoubtedly open the floodgates to foreign entities influencing the integrity of India’s electoral processes, a prospect that should concern every citizen of the country.

You may recall that some of us had filed a case before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in 2013 pointing out that the national political parties had infringed the provisions of the FCRA laws (FCRA’s of both 1976 & 2010) and that they should be proceeded against under those laws. Our contention was upheld by the court. The respondents then contested that decision before the Hon’ble Supreme Court but they could not succeed in getting the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court reversed.

In the normal course, therefore, the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is empowered to enforce the FCRA, ought to have pursued cases under the two FCRAs against the concerned political parties and duly prosecuted them. However, the present NDA government, instead of allowing the law to take its course, took the extraordinary step of retrospectively amending the relevant provisions of the FCRAs, that too through the backdoor of the Finance Act, evidently to exempt the political parties from being prosecuted for the past violations (https://thewire.in/politics/fcra-reviving-lapsed-law-amending-retrospectively-trumps-ethical-legal-barriers)

The legality of such a retrospective amendment of the FCRAs is presently under judicial scrutiny before the apex court. It is ironic that, despite this, the present government should proceed to bring in further changes in the FCRA that go against the spirit of free and fair elections.

I am aware that the ECI had consistently opposed both the FCRA amendments and the introduction of the Electoral Bonds scheme, keeping in view their likely adverse impact on the sanctity of the electoral processes.

One would have expected the government to be sensitive enough to the need to insulate the electoral system from the deleterious influence of money power, respect the views expressed by the ECI and desist from making any more regressive changes to the FCRA but it is disappointing that the government should further amend the Act to open new avenues for the political parties to receive funds from foreign sources.

In the first instance, the idea of political parties seeking funds from private companies is in itself repugnant to the concept of elections being free and fair. Over the decades, corporate donations to the political parties have tainted the electoral processes and also forced the ruling political elite to adapt the policies of the government to suit the commercial interests of the business groups, rather than safeguarding the public interest. Compounding this is the ongoing attempts on the part of the present government to create new opportunities for donations from foreign sources to flow into the coffers of the political parties, which would undoubtedly have the indirect effect of adversely affecting  the national interest itself.

I earnestly appeal to the ECI to express its explicit opposition to all such moves on the part of the government to tinker with the FCRA and, if necessary, contest the same by seeking judicial intervention, as this is a matter that will have long-term implications for elections in India. In my view, the Commission cannot afford to remain silent and inactive on this.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Visakhapatnam


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