The Election Commission has raised objections to the changes made to the Representation of the People Act and the Companies Act, The Indian Express reported on Thursday. In a letter to the Law Ministry last week, the poll monitoring body argued that the changes hamper transparency in political donations.
After the amendments, parties have been exempted from disclosing donations received through electoral bonds. Besides, there is no limit on corporate contribution to such outfits. The EC has asked the government to “reconsider” and “modify” these amendments. “In a situation where the contributions received through electoral bonds are not reported, on perusal of the contribution report of political parties, it cannot be ascertained whether the political party has taken any donation in violation of provision under Section 29(b) of the RP Act which prohibits the political parties from taking donations from government companies and foreign sources,” the EC wrote in the letter.
The Centre had introduced the changes during the Budget session. Besides, the EC is reportedly not happy that the government brought changes to the RP Act through a Money Bill without consulting it, according to The Indian Express.
In March, the EC had recommended limiting cash donations to a political party to Rs 20 crore or at 20% of its total contribution, whichever is the lower amount. It had also recommended extended the income tax exemption granted to voluntary donations to all donations made through cheques and wire transfers.
These suggestions come soon after the Centre accepted the Election Commission’s recommendation to lower the cap on anonymous cash donations to political parties to Rs 2,000 from Rs 20,000 per person. Its call for cashless donations comes after activists pointed out that parties could bypass this lowered limit by opting for multiple receipts of Rs 1,999 each.
A report compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms in January had found that political parties had received Rs 7,833 crore, or 69% of their total income, from undisclosed sources in 11 years till 2015. The Congress (83% of its total income) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (65% of its total income) got maximum funds from anonymous sources.