The Election Commission has urged the government to slash the cap on anonymous donations to political parties from the present Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000 to usher in more transparency, a move which comes months ahead of Lok Sabha elections due next year.
In a letter to the Legislative Department of the Law Ministry last week, the commission pointed out that while its demand to cap cash donations to parties to Rs 2,000 per person has been accepted and made part of the Finance Act, another demand to cap anonymous donations to Rs 2,000 is still pending.
The poll panel had written to the government in the middle of 2017 to amend Section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to put a cap of anonymous donations. The letter sent last week is a reiteration reminding the government that its demand has not yet been acted upon.
"The commission feels that since donations up to Rs 20,000 can be kept anonymous and need not declared, there is a possibility that cash will also be accepted. This runs contrary to the bar on accepting cash donations beyond Rs 2,000," explained a functionary.
There is no constitutional or statutory prohibition on receipt of anonymous donations by political parties. But there is an "indirect partial ban" on anonymous donations through the requirement of declaration of donations under Section 29C of The Representation of the People Act.
But, such declarations are mandated only for contributions above Rs 20,000.
According to Section 29 C of the law, the treasurer of a political party shall every financial year prepare a report on the contribution "in excess" of Rs 20,000 received by it from any person.
As per the proposed amendment sent by the commission to the government, "anonymous contributions above or equal to the amount of Rs two thousand should be prohibited."