‘It cannot be said that contribution of the corporates to the coffers of the political parties will have any bearing on how voters exercise their franchise, in favour of one party or the other.’
While dismissing public interest litigation against corporate funding of political parties, the Kerala High Court has observed that it cannot be said that contribution of the corporate to the coffers of the political parties will have any bearing on how voters exercise their franchise, in favour of one party or the other.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar made this observation in a public interest litigation filed by Victor T Thomas.
The petitioner had challenged some amendments in the Companies Act, 2013, the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, which enable political parties in India to receive a contribution from companies. According to the petitioner, when such contribution is received by the political parties, the donor corporate will be able to influence on how votes are cast in the election process and it will indirectly enable the companies force the party in power to disregard welfare measures for the people and adopt such anti-people policies which will serve the cause of the donor corporate.
The bench, which was disinclined to entertain the plea, observed in its order that the election laws of India provide sufficient safeguard to enable a voter to cast his vote as per his wish without fear or favour. It further noted that, providing of money as an incentive is a corrupt practice under the election laws, therefore, no political party is capable of buying voter's allegiance through corporate donation.
“In the above circumstances, it cannot be said that contribution of the corporates to the coffers of the political parties will have any bearing on how voters exercise their franchise, in favour of one party or the other,” the bench said.
Rejecting challenge against amendments made, the court observed that those are in the realm of policy decision of the government to regulate receipt of contribution to the political parties and to ensure transparency in such contributions.
“In fact a process is in place, whereby such contribution can only be made by cheques and this will surely ensure transparency. Therefore, it is questionable whether the court should enter into the domain of the policy decisions of the State, which have found expressions through the amendments brought about in the various enactments,” the court added.
SC issues Notice On A similar plea
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on a petition challenging the amendments made to the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 2018 (FRCA) through the Finance Act, 2016, and Finance Act, 2018, which has been passed as a Money Bill with retrospective effect from the year 1976. The petition was filed by petition filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms and former Secretary to the Government of India Mr. E.A.S. Sarma.