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31.10.2018
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The Election Commission (EC) is all set to review contributions received by political parties through electoral bonds, how the bond income has impacted finances of these parties and if the commission’s transparency norms were met. Over the next few days, the poll body will analyse contribution reports and annual audited accounts of political parties for 2017-18, due to be in by October 31.

“The EC will assess the bonds scheme with regard to four concerns: the level of opacity (of funding source), the use of shell companies to route funds to political parties, scope for political funding via dying/loss-making companies and misusing anonymity offered by bonds to illegally tap party funds from foreign sources,” a top EC functionary said.

The first tranche of electoral bonds sale was from March 1-10 this year during which Rs 222 crore worth of bonds were issued by designated banks. Any contribution received by parties through bonds should reflect in their annual audited accounts for 2017-18.

Sources in the commission said the poll panel would soon examine contribution reports and audited accounts of all parties to ascertain whether income through bonds was declared.

The poll watchdog is contemplating writing to the law ministry in the next few days, sharing its assessment on electoral bonds and making suggestions for review of the scheme, if necessary.

The deadline for parties to file their contribution reports for the last financial year has already passed, and October 31 is the last date for these parties to file their audited accounts — the two reports which the EC says should reflect income of parties through bonds. 

With some parties yet to adhere to this deadline, the EC functionary said it would assess the electoral bonds scheme with whatever contribution reports and annual audited accounts are in by October 31.

While all national parties except BJP and Trinamool Congress filed their 2017-18 contribution reports within the September 30 deadline, only Trinamool has furnished its annual audited account so far. However, the income received from bonds is neither reflected in Trinamool’s audited account nor in its contribution report as there is no separate column specifying such details.

As per amendments in Representation of the People Act through the Finance Bill last year, parties were exempt from disclosing donations received through electoral bonds in contribution reports. Section 182 of Companies Act was also amended, doing away with the cap of 7.5% of profits of companies in three preceding years for making donations and requiring them to only declare total contributions and not party-wise breakup.

The EC had, soon after electoral bonds scheme was proposed in February 2017, shared its concerns with the law ministry, calling it a “retrograde step” that may lead to setting up of shell companies and routing of black money. The scheme had not been notified then.

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