New Delhi, Jan 10: The Delhi High Court Thursday issued notice to the central government and the Election Commission on a plea seeking directive for a CBI or SIT probe into the Congress and the BJP allegedly accepting donations from subsidiaries of the Britain-based Vedanta Group.
A division bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Indermeet Kaur said: “Let respondents one (ministry of home affairs) and two (Election Commission) file their reply within two weeks. List this matter after three weeks on Feb 4.”
Seeking a response from the ministry and the poll panel within two weeks, the court said it will go through their responses before calling upon the two parties – the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – to respond.
The PIL, filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms and E.A.S. Sarma, a former secretary in the central government, through advocate Prashant Bhushan, alleged that various Indian laws have been violated by the Congress and the BJP by allegedly receiving funding from Vedanta Resources.
The two political parties have violated the Representation of People Act, 1951, and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), the PIL alleged.
The Representation of the People Act prohibits political parties from taking donations from government companies and from foreign sources, the PIL said, adding that FCRA prohibits any financial contribution from any foreign source or company to a political party registered in India.
The PIL said that Britain-based Vedanta Resources and its subsidiary companies in India — including Sterlite Industries, Sesa Goa and Malco — “have donated several crores of rupees to major political parties like the Congress and the BJP”.
It has also asked the central government to “confiscate the illegal donations under the supervision of the high court”.
According to Vedanta’s 2012 annual report, it made political donations to the tune of $2.01 million in 2011-12, the PIL said.
“Sterlite’s annual report of 2011-2012 also states that during the year the group made political donations in India of Rs.5 crore either through a trust or directly.”
The PIL alleged that since Finance Minister P. Chidambaram was a director in Vedanta till May 2004, the government might not take any action against the group on its own.
“Till recently he (Chidambaram) was the home minister in charge of ensuring the implementation of FCRA. He did not take any action against Vedanta or the Congress with whom he is associated. He is now the finance minister under whose charge income tax exemptions are being given to Vedanta and the Congress for the illegal donations,” said the PIL.
“Therefore, a court-monitored investigation is required as the Union of India is unlikely to proceed against major political parties or corporate groups like Vedanta on its own,” it said.
The PIL asked the central government to “cancel the income tax exemption given to political parties and corporate groups for donations made in violation of the law of the land”.