The Supreme Court on Tuesday listed the final hearing of pleas challenging the validity of the electoral bonds scheme on October 31, PTI reported.
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 these for money. The Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre introduced the electoral bonds in January 2018.
The case against electoral bonds was first filed in the Supreme Court by the Association for Democratic Reforms in September 2017, but has since remained pending. In March, the Supreme Court said that it would consider if the petitions against electoral bonds are to be referred to the Constitution bench.
At Tuesday’s hearing, advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioner, urged the court to take up the matter soon since the bonds will be issued before the upcoming Assembly elections in five states, reported Live Law.
However, the Attorney General R Venkatramani argued that one of the issues raised in the plea was that the electoral bonds scheme was introduced through a money bill. He said that the court is already hearing another petition challenging the rules pertaining to the passage of laws as money bills in parliament.
Money bills can be passed without the assent of the Rajya Sabha. The electoral bonds scheme was also introduced as a money bill in the Lok Sabha.
However, Bhushan said that the petitioners will argue the matter without the money bill issue.
He said that anonymous funding of political parties violated the citizens’ Right to Information. He argued that the process also promoted corruption as it allowed companies who benefitted from the government to anonymously donate to ruling political parties, Live Law reported.
Despite concerns from the Election Commission and the Reserve Bank of India, the State Bank of India has been given the authority to sell electoral bonds in denominations of Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 crore, Bhushan argued.
On Tuesday, the court said that it will hear the matter on November 1 as well, if the hearing does not conclude on October 31, reported Bar and Bench.
Former Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced the electoral bond scheme in his Budget speech in 2017, claiming the government wanted to clean up political funding and make it a transparent process.
However, the entire process is anonymous since 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. The government had claimed that the money is unlikely to be “black” since it has to be given by cheque.