Electoral Bonds: SC has failed us

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The Supreme Court’s interim order on the petition seeking a ban on Electoral Bonds is disappointing, and has failed the Indian voter. The court has ordered all parties to provide to the Election Commission details of the funds received by them in a sealed cover by May 30. It said the petition raised weighty issues that required detailed consideration and did not give an immediate relief by way of an interim stay on the bonds. This is unfair, and the court’s reasoning is wrong. The petition was filed in February 2018, and the court had ample time to consider it, but it sat through multiple elections and donations worth millions. Now, when the bonds are used as a major conduit to transfer funds to parties during election time, it has posted the case for consideration after the elections.

The court, in fact, questioned the main arguments presented by Attorney-General K K Venugopal for the government, as it was clear that they were wrong and unacceptable even on preliminary reckoning. It was not impressed by the claim that the bonds would help to curb the use of black money and indeed pointed out that they might actually increase it. The court would surely not have been able to agree with the argument that “the public has no right to know who funds political parties’’. This is a most unacceptable and ridiculous argument. The court has always upheld the need for transparency and public interest in government actions and policies. It has also emphasised the primacy of the Right to Information in many of its judgements. 

When all these issues are clear, what are the weighty issues still to be considered? The Election Commission has also opposed Electoral Bonds and spelt out their serious consequences. Electoral Bonds are sweetheart deals between the donor and the receiving political party, and the balance is heavily in favour of the ruling party. The court said it had to consider that the balance should not be upset during elections. What balance, when the ruling party gets over 95% of the money? It is because every argument in support of the bonds has been rejected by the court in various other cases that its decision has come as a disappointment. Some parties may challenge the order, too. Electoral Bonds should have been scrapped or, at least, stayed. Parties, especially the ruling party, will continue to benefit from them. Even if the court decides to ban the bonds or impose some restrictions after May 30, it won’t matter. In fact, the delayed decision will amount to denial of justice. Timing is important in the delivery of justice, and wrong and bad timing defeats the substance of justice.  

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Electoral Bonds: SC has failed us

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