The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a petition challenging a recent amendment to the electoral bonds scheme allowing another window for their sale, Bar and Bench reported.
A gazette notification issued on November 7 amended the scheme to provide an additional 15 days for the sale of electoral bonds “in the year of general elections to the legislative assemblies of States and Union Territories with legislature”.
Later that day, the Centre made use of the amendment to open a fresh window for the sale of electoral bonds from November 9 to November 15, ahead of the elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.
On Monday, Senior Advocate Anoop Chaudhari mentioned the petition challenging the notification before the court. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said that the court would list the matter before the appropriate bench, according to Live Law.
However, the lawyer said: “They are issuing notification against the scheme. This notification is wholly illegal.” To this, the chief justice again said that the court would list the matter and the case would come up for hearing.
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. The Centre had first introduced electoral bonds in January 2018.
Before the recent amendment, the bonds were available for purchase for a period of 10 days in the months of January, April, July and October. An additional 30 days window was allowed in the years of general elections.
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.
Petitions against the scheme have been filed by two non-governmental organisations – Association for Democratic Reforms and Common Cause. The petitioners questioned why the government introduced the scheme through a Money Bill, thus bypassing the Rajya Sabha.
The petitioners contended that the scheme hampers transparency in political funding, as political parties do not need to mention the names and addresses of those who contributed to them in their annual contribution reports to the Election Commission.
In its 21st sale in July, donations through electoral bonds to political parties had gone up by Rs 389.5 crore to Rs 10,246 crore. The 22nd sale opened in October.
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.