Donations through electoral bonds to political parties have gone up by Rs 389.5 crore to Rs 10,246 crore in the 21st sale of the financial instruments since they were launched in 2018, The Indian Express reported citing data from State Bank of India.

Electoral bonds are monetary instruments that citizens or corporate groups can buy from a bank and give to a political party, which is then free to redeem them for money. Their 21st sale took place between July 1 and July 10 by the Union government.

Activists and non-governmental organisations have questioned the transparency of the bonds as no one is required to declare their purchase of these interest-free bonds and political parties do not need to show the source of the money.

However, the government has reasoned that the money is unlikely to be “black” since it has to be given by cheque.

In July, 475 electoral bonds were redeemed by parties, the State Bank of India said in response to a Right to Information application filed by Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd), The Indian Express reported.

The bonds – worth Rs 389.5 crore – have been collected by the political parties despite no Assembly election being scheduled till December.

According to State Bank of India data, bonds worth Rs 108.5 crore were encashed at the bank’s Bhubaneswar main branch, Rs 70 crore in New Delhi, Rs 71 crore in Hyderabad and Rs 66.5 crore in Kolkata.

Batra said that “all eyes are on the Supreme Court that is to hear the ADR [Association of Democratic Reforms] case for a stay of EB Scheme 2018”, The Wire reported.

The Association of Democratic Reforms, a non-governmental organisation, in 2017 filed a petition in Supreme Court demanding a stop on the sale of the electoral bonds. It is among the several pending plea that court has agreed to hear in 2022.

The non-governmental organisation it its plea has said that the electoral bonds have “opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which can have serious repercussions”.

The plea also noted that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre had opened a special sale window of the electoral bonds ahead of state Assembly polls.

The Bharatiya Janata Party got nearly 75% of all large donations made by companies and individuals to national political parties in the financial year 2020-’21, according to the Election Commission.

In August last year, a report by the Association of Democratic Reforms showed that the BJP had received 76% of electoral bonds sold in 2019-’20, while the Congress had received 9%.

The highest amount of electoral bonds since the beginning of the scheme – worth Rs 1,231 crore – were sold this January in the run-up to Assembly elections in Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh.