Electoral Bonds | SC asks parties for donor details

Electoral Bonds | SC asks parties for donor details

DH file photo for representation.

The Supreme Court on Friday directed all political parties to furnish forthwith to the Election Commission in sealed envelope details of money received through electoral bonds.

The top court refused to stay the operations of electoral bonds brought into operations through the Finance Act, 2016-17.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna passed interim orders for disclosing details of the bonds received by the parties with the Election Commission.

The court took a step towards transparency while saying the issues arising out of the electoral bond are "weighty and would have a tremendous bearing on the sanctity of election process" and cannot be decided after a short hearing.

After examining the submissions of various parties, the top court, in order, said the "interim arrangement should not tilt the balance in favour of one political party".

The court said the PILs filed by NGO 'Association of Democratic Reforms' and political party CPI(M) would be posted for detailed hearing.

The Union government had earlier maintained that the instrument of electoral bond helped in checking thousand of crores of black money to going to political parties.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, contended that the RTI query revealed that 95 % of the electoral bond has gone to the ruling party, BJP.

Attorney General K K Venugopal had said instead of thousands of crores of black money going to the political parties, the electoral bond has come as a check on it.

The petitioners challenged validity of the electoral bond through the amendments into the Reserve Bank of India Act, the Representation of the People (RP) Act, the Income Tax Act, the Companies Act and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) by the Finance Acts of 2016 and 2017

The Union government had earlier brushed aside the Election Commission's “concerns” on use of black money through electoral bonds, by calling it as a “pioneer step” in ensuring greater transparency and accountability in political funding.

The EC, subsequently, said it was not against the electoral bond per se but was opposed to opaqueness attached to it.

In an affidavit, the government said the non-disclosure of identity of the donor is core objective of the scheme of electoral bond in order to safeguard the donor from political victimisation.

“The electoral bonds can be encashed only by an eligible political party by depositing the same in the designated bank account which means that a political party can open only one PAN India single bank account for crediting proceeds of the electoral bonds. The amount can be ascertained through the account statement,” it said.

It pointed out that the amount of cash donation limit has been reduced from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000, for which details of the name, PAN number etc were not maintained and constituted major portion of the political donation.