Lok Sabha eases regulations on foreign funding

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Lok Sabha amends the FCRA 2010 (Image Source: DNA).

The Lok Sabha unanimously approved of the amendment to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010. With this amendment in force, political parties are now immune to the scrutiny of Election Commission and other associated watchdog agencies over foreign funding to their parties since 1976. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which initiated the process has had no contestation on the amendment from any political party, including the Opposition party Congress.

Lok Sabha passed 21 amendments to Finance Bill 2018 without any debate or discussion in the lower house. One of the amendments passed was related to FCRA 2010 which prohibits political parties from receiving any foreign funding.  Confirming the amendment, the Lok Sabha website stated “in the Finance Act, 2016, in section 236, in the opening paragraph, for the words, figures and letters ‘the 26th September, 2010’, the words, figures and letters ‘the 5th August, 1976’ shall be substituted.” Political parties could be investigated for any foreign funds received before 2010 under the FCRA but with the amendment passed last week, this is impossible.

The Finance Bill 2018 amendment in FCRA may turn favorable to BJP  and Congress. The parties have case pending in the Delhi High Court for accepting foreign funds in large numbers from Vedanta, a London based company. With the latest amendment, political parties need not report about their foreign funding if it is received after 1976, and this claim can be made by the BJP and Congress in the High Court.

This is not the first amendment introduced in the FCRA by BJP. Finance Bill 2016 modified the definition of foreign company to make room for easy access to foreign funds by political parties. Finance Bill 2017 discarded the regulations mandating the disclosure of political party’s name which received funds; also the cap put on funding amount was done away with 2017 amendment.

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FCRA was introduced in 1976 preventing the political parties, electoral candidates and even judges from receiving foreign funds. This was done to control international interference in the domestic politics. These amendments raise a concern about the future of Indian politics because with no mechanism to limit and check the foreign funding, there is scope of corporate or private interests swaying the political discourse.

(Source: NDTV, DailyO, The Logical Indian)

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