Chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi on Saturday said that amendments to the Companies Act of 2013, removing cap on corporate contribution to political parties, are “basically hitting” transparency of funding. “Two things are likely to happen in future. There would be less and less transparency, and if I could say, there would be opaqueness will not be an exaggeration. This has increased the scope of receiving and spending more funds and of course the related impact,” said Zaidi while speaking at the Association of Democratic Reforms’ annual conference here. “The Companies Act of 2013 has been amended and this has removed the cap of 7.5 per cent (on the contribution). This means the limit of contributions to political parties from corporate houses and business houses is now unlimited. There is no limit.”

Zaidi said that earlier each company was required to declare in its profit and loss statement the amount contributed to and the name of the party. He added that the amendment has meant that now companies are not required to show the names of political parties they have contributed to. “It has also been feared that there are chances and probabilities of shell companies being set up only for the purpose of donation to political parties including the channelization of foreign money through shell companies. This is one important change that has taken place with the (amendment) in Companies Act of 2013,” he said. He added that the election commission would see what changes the amendment will bring about.

Separately, Zaidi said that the election commission will soon call an all-party meeting to assure them that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are tampering-proof. “… they will be told how our EVMs are non-tamperable and secured as per our administrative and technical safeguard system,” Zaidi told reporters. He said that the EC intends to use voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) in all coming elections to bring more transparency and boost people’s confidence in the electoral process. Zaidi said that the commission has ordered 15 lakh VVPAT machines from Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronic Corporation of India. He added that around 15 lakh VVPAT machines will be ready by September 2018.

Zaidi said that India will perhaps be the first country where VVPAT will be used at all poling stations. He said that an awareness campaign will be launched to create awareness about the benefits of VVPAT, which generates a receipt allowing voters to verify that the vote went to the candidate against whose name the button was pressed on an EVM.

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