Last week, the Finance Bill 2018 was passed within a span of just half-an-hour amid the din, along with 18 amendments. Among them, there was also a damning amendment to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010, which exempted political parties from the scrutiny of their foreign funding, against the backdrop of a judgement that found both the BJP and the Congress prima facie guilty of accepting foreign funds.
And while there has been a deafening silence from the opposition on FCRA amendment which usually takes no time in criticising any move by the Narendra Modi government, it was BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who called the entire process terrible.
Subramanian Swamy, who is popularly known as India’s anti-corruption crusader, referred to an op-ed written in national daily Asian Age and said in a tweet that to permit political parties to receive foreign funds, which passed in the din is terrible.
Today’s Asian Age has op ed on Bill passed to permit political parties to receive foreign funds. It was passed in the din. Terrible!!
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) March 21, 2018
Interestingly, the law that makes foreign funding legitimate, with retrospective effect from 1976, comes within five months of a Delhi High Court order asking the Narendra Modi government to look into the accounts of both the Congress and the BJP for the violation of FCRA. More interestingly, the Delhi HC gave the “last opportunity” to the Ministry of Home Affairs for compliance with its 2014 judgement, which found both parties flouting the FCRA norms by accepting donations from Indian subsidiaries of UK-based Vedanta Resources.
“The question really is that: Can parties really amend the law when they have been indicted in the court. Will they do it for the common man?” Maj Gen Anil Verma (Retd), Head of Association for Democratic Reforms told FE Online.
He said that there is no debate on why accepting foreign funding is wrong. “We are not aware of the credentials of foreign funds; they can be dubious, black money, our own embezzled money. Foreign funding is wrong,” Anil Verma added.
On the law being backdated to 1976, he said that it was technical in nature as one law supercedes the other and the government had to do it. On the entire process of Finance Bill passed without any debate, Anil Verma, said that it set a bad precedent for India’s democracy, especially since it was a money bill and it only needed the nod from the Lok Sabha, and the government had enough time.
Here’s what you should know:
On March 14, the Lok Sabha passed 21 amendments to the Finance Bill 2018 and completed the Budget 2018 exercise in just 30 minutes with any debate.
The Lok Sabha passed without a debate the bill which now exempts political parties from the scrutiny of funds they have received from abroad since 1976.
The FCRA was passed in 1976. It defined a company — Indian or foreign — registered abroad or with subsidiaries abroad as a foreign firm. It was later repealed and replaced with the FCRA, 2010.
The government also changed the definition of a foreign company by saying a firm with less than 50% of share capital held by a foreign entity would no longer be a foreign source. This amendment is effective from 2010.
In Finance Bill 2016, the government added Clause 233 which changed the definition of a foreign company to dilute the FCRA, 2010 law. It said that a firm with less than 50% of share capital held by a foreign entity would no longer be a foreign source. Post this, both Congress and the BJP which had challenged the High Court 2014 judgment withdrew their plea.