Electoral Bonds: let down by SC

It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not treated with the urgency and importance that it deserves a petition challenging the Electoral Bonds scheme for political donations and seeking a stay on it. The petition was filed by a non-profit organisation, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). It was filed in February last year after the government, which had introduced the scheme in the 2017-18 union budget, notified it on January 2, 2018. The court has refused to grant an interim stay, which was sought because there is usually a spurt in election funding ahead of elections. The court has fixed the next hearing on Wednesday, just a day before polling starts for the Lok Sabha elections. Ideally, the court should have taken a decision soon after the petition was filed or in any case well before the election campaign started. This is because the scheme has worked to the unfair advantage of the BJP and led to large-scale flow of funds to it, denied a level playing field for other parties and, as the petition said, “opened the floodgates to unrestricted corporate donations…which can have serious repercussions on Indian democracy”. 

The Election Commission has also opposed the Electoral Bonds scheme. It has told the court in an affidavit that the scheme would have a “serious impact on transparency in political funding’’. It also said that the amendments made to various laws, such as the Income Tax Act, would facilitate the inflow of black money through shell companies to parties and lead to “Indian politics being influenced by foreign companies’’. This was in reply to the government’s contention that the bonds were a major step toward electoral reform and aimed at “enhanced accountability’’ and curbing black money. 

The Electoral Bond is a device invented by the Modi government to enable free flow of funds to the ruling party and to choke the flow to other parties. This is clear from the fact that till now 95% of the contributions made through the bonds has gone to the BJP. The scheme is totally opaque because the donor’s identity is not known, and any amount can be donated. Since the government gets to know the donor, it has the effect of preventing the flow of funds to other parties. Such a wrong, discriminatory and unfair scheme should not have been in operation for such a long time, especially during the period before the elections. It is incomprehensible why the court has so far refused to even order a stay on the scheme. If at all a stay is granted now, it will only amount to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.  

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Electoral Bonds: let down by SC

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