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The Delhi High Court today granted the government the last opportunity by giving it six months to look into the accounts of political parties, including the Congress and the BJP, for traces of foreign funds. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said it was giving the "last opportunity" to the Ministry of Home Affairs for complying with the court's 2014 judgement, which had found both parties flouting the FCRA norms by accepting donations from Indian subsidiaries of UK- based Vedanta Resources. "We are concerned with the compliance of the order," it said. Section 4 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) prohibits a political party or a legislator from accepting foreign contributions. On March 28, 2014, the high court had ordered the Election Commission and the Ministry of Home Affairs to look into the accounts of political parties and take action within six months. However, MHA represented by central government's standing counsel Monika Arora, sought extension of time till March 31 next year to comply with the court's directions. The Centre in its application said "the records are voluminous in nature and are a few decades old, hence, to collect, collate and then analyse them requires more time". Advocate Pranav Sachdeva, appearing for NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), on whose plea the high court had passed the order, said "six months time is unreasonable". He submitted that even after the lapse of three years since the court verdict, the government had not taken any action. The Centre's counsel opposed this claim saying it has issued show cause notices, letters, reminders to the political parties to furnish the requisite information with regard to the donations made by companies to them. The lawyer further said they, through Ministry of Corporate Affairs, have constituted teams to inspect the share holding patterns of the companies which have extended donations to the political parties. Sachdeva argued that the NGO has moved a contempt plea for non-compliance of the high court's 2014 order directing action against political parties which were violating foreign funding norms. He contended that "despite the fact that there was no interim relief granted by the apex court, the Centre has remained in non-compliance with the judgement of the Delhi High Court." To this, the bench observed that the government was saying it would comply with the order in six months. "Let them do it.
We appreciate your (NGO) effort," the court said and asked the counsel for the NGO whether it wants compliance of the order or punitive action against the Centre. It said "We are of the opinion that the extension of time deserves to be granted. Therefore, they are granted six months time from today for compliance of the order". It, thereafter, disposed of the Centre's application. Earlier on July 20, the single judge had given the Centre six months time to comply with the direction and had listed the matter for hearing on December 5. Both the political parties had challenged the high court's verdict in the Supreme Court by filing petitions which were withdrawn in November last year. The high court had passed the 2014 order on a petition by the NGO seeking action and a probe against the parties which were allegedly infringing the norms.
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