The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the government’s interim bond scheme in an interim order, and instead asked all political parties to disclose their funding in a sealed cover to the court by May 30. The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Deepak Khanna Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said that the matter required detailed hearing.
“The transparency and anonymity in donations through electoral bond, raised by petitioner NGO through Prashant Bhushan, raises weighty issues vital to fairness of electoral process,” the court reportedly said in its order.
The validity of the electoral bond scheme was challenged by the Association for Democratic Reforms. ADR had filed an application in the apex court in March seeking an immediate stay on electoral bonds, introduced by the government in January 2018, and the court asked them to file a proper application for the same.
Electoral bonds were introduced with the stated aim of cleaning up funding of various political parties and help combat the menace of black money in the political system, but made the funders anonymous. ADR’s PIL sought transparency by complete disclosure of who the donor and recipients were, or that the scheme be scrapped.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, the counsel for ADR said there was a strong possibility that thousands of crores have been channelled to political parties under the garb of anonymity. He also alleged that nearly 95% of the electoral bonds proceeds have been moved to the accounts of the ruling BJP.
While the court was hearing the matter on Thursday, Attorney General of India KK Venugopal, representing the central government, submitted to the Supreme Court that voters do not need to know where the funding of political parties come from. Responding to the petitioner who stated that voters have a right to know, the AG said, “Voters have a right to know what? Voters don’t need to know where the money of political parties comes from.” He added that donors needed to be given privacy.
Electoral bonds are a monetary instrument that could be bought either by citizens or corporate groups from the State Bank of India. Later, these bonds can be given to any political party of choice, who can redeem them to generate funds. Bonds holders donating to political parties, however, remain anonymous, as per the scheme.
Earlier this week, the Centre had filed an affidavit in the top court defending the bonds. The affidavit said that the bonds are a concrete step in introducing accountability and transparency in the entire election process.
With IANS inputs