SC to hear plea on electoral bond scheme stay in Jan

A bench, comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, was told by lawyer Prashant Bhushan that around Rs 6,000 crore had been collected under the scheme

Representative image (PTI photo)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to consider in January 2020 a plea moved by NGO Association for Democratic Rights to stay the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan mentioned the matter before a bench presided over by Chief Justice S A Bobde, saying fresh materials, including RTI responses, emerged showing the RBI and the Election Commission of India (ECI) had objected to the scheme. He sought an urgent hearing in the case.

The counsel pointed out that on April 12 the court had directed all the political parties to furnish details of money received through electoral bonds to the Election Commission in a sealed envelope but only 19 out of 93 political parties gave details in a sealed cover to the poll panel by May 30.

The NGO had on Friday approached the court with a plea to stay the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018, on the contention that it legitimised corruption at a huge scale, and maintained complete non-transparency in political funding. The organisation claimed it has opened floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies, raising serious repercussions on the Indian democracy.

It relied upon the RTI response received by activists Commodore (Rtd) Lokesh Batra and Anjali Bhardwaj, showing the government went ahead with it despite the RBI's repeated warnings on its potential increase black money circulation, money laundering, cross-border counterfeiting and forgery. The Law Ministry also expressed its reservations which the Finance Ministry chose to ignore.

It also cited the news report contending the PMO had ordered the special and illegal sale of electoral bonds just before state polls and the Finance Ministry broke its own rules to approve the unscheduled and illegal sale of electoral bonds for state assembly elections on two separate occasions.

“The Finance Act of 2017 had introduced the use of electoral bonds, exempt from disclosure under the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, opening doors to unchecked, unknown funding to political parties. The said amendments have also removed the existing cap of 7.5% of net profit in the last three years on campaign donations by companies and have legalised anonymous donations,” the application filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan stated.

Notably, the top court had already admitted a writ petition filed by the ADR against the validity of the scheme, for consideration. 
 

A list of Association for Democratic Rights claims:

* More than Rs 6,000 crore worth electoral bonds sold in 12 cycles so far

* Rs 4,444.32 crore worth EBs purchased during three phases in general elections

* Rs 3,355.93 crore sold in the current financial year 2019-20

* An RTI response on November 4 to Venkatesh Nayak showed no communication or representation was ever received from the donors for anonymity

* The BJP earned more than Rs 1,000 crore in 2017-18

* No scrutiny prior to redemption of Electoral Bonds by political parties

* Carnegie Foundation, an international thinktank published an article how electoral bonds have legitimised opacity

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