BRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao

SC Asks ECI For Data On Electoral Bonds Within Two Weeks

BRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao

The Supreme Court, on Thursday, directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to furnish updated data on the funds received by all political parties through electoral bonds within two weeks.

A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, along with Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, directed the ECI to submit the data in a sealed packet within two weeks.

It also reserved its verdict after three days of hearing on a batch of pleas challenging the central government’s electoral bond scheme, which allows for anonymous funding to political parties.

“We would like the Election Commission of India (ECI) to get the data up to September 30, 2023. We have heard arguments. judgment reserved. In April 2019, there was an interim direction to ECI… and as per that a sealed cover document was produced and the order of the court was not restricted to that date and clarification could have been sought. Now, ECI is to submit updated data till September 30, 2023, in a sealed packet to the Registrar General of this court within two weeks,” said the bench in its order.

During the hearing, the bench also expressed displeasure with the ECI for not having the data on the Electoral Bonds donation to date. It pointed out that, as per the interim order passed on April 12, 2019, the ECI was obliged to maintain the data of electoral bond fundings to date.

Advocate Amit Sharma, representing the poll panel, told the apex court that the ECI was under the impression that the April 2019 order was pertaining to only the Electoral Bonds issued in relation to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

ECI then agreed to collate the data by September 30 and submit it before the top court.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, argued against the Electoral Bonda scheme, saying, “This is the most unconstitutional, undemocratic, unfair scheme which destroys basic structure of the constitution.”

The bench suggested that an alternative system could be devised for political donations to remove the “flaws” that plague the current electoral bond system.

CJI Chandrachud said that the court would not suggest going back to a cash-only system, but serious deficiencies in the existing system should be addressed.

“We do not want to go back to a cash-only system. We are saying do it in a proportionate, tailor-made system which overcomes the serious deficiencies of this electoral bond system,” said the bench, adding that only the legislature or the executive can undertake such an exercise and the court will not step into that arena.

An electoral bond is an instrument in the nature of a promissory note or bearer bond that can be purchased by any individual, company, firm or association of persons, provided the person or body is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India. The bonds are issued specifically for the purpose of contributing funds to political parties.

The Centre, in an affidavit, said that the methodology of the Electoral Bonds scheme is a “completely transparent” mode of political funding and that it is impossible to get black money or unaccounted money.

Various petitions are pending before the top court challenging amendments made to different statutes through the Finance Act 2017 and Finance Act 2016 on the ground that they have opened doors to unlimited, unchecked funding of political parties.

The NGOs Association of Democratic Reforms and Common Cause have said that the Finance Bill, 2017, which paved the way for the introduction of the Electoral Bond scheme, was passed as a money bill even though it wasn’t. (ANI)

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