The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its judgement in response to a batch of pleas challenging the validity of the electoral bonds scheme, reported Live Law.
The court also told the Election Commission to collect data on donations that political parties received through electoral bonds till September 30. The poll panel has been directed to submit the data to the Registrar General of the Supreme Court in a sealed cover within two weeks, according to The Hindu.
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. 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 Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre introduced the scheme in January 2018.
A five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra began hearing the case on October 31.
The petitioners argued that anonymous donations to political parties through the scheme promote corruption and prevent a level playing field between the ruling and the opposition parties.
However, the Centre told the court that electoral bonds are kept anonymous to protect the donors’ political affiliations since these were part of their private lives. Revealing the names of donors could render the scheme ineffective and could lead to a return to cash-based political funding, the Centre had argued.
On Thursday, Chief Justice Chandrachud said that the court would not ask the State Bank of India to reveal donors’ identities at this stage. “That nobody is interested in at the present stage but we would like to know the quantum,” he said.
The State Bank of India is authorised to issue and encash electoral bonds through 29 of its branches.