The Election Commission on Sunday uploaded on its website electoral bonds data received from political parties that it had given to the Supreme Court in sealed covers in November.

This tranche of data includes the date of the bonds, denominations, number of bonds, issuing branch of the State Bank of India, the date of receipt and credit, and the account numbers of the political parties.

“Data so received from political parties was deposited in the Hon’ble Supreme Court without opening sealed covers,” the poll panel said on Sunday. “In pursuance of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order dated March 15, 2024, the Registry of the Supreme Court has returned physical copies along with a digitised record of the same in a pen drive in sealed cover.”

The background

On November 2, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to get the details of the funds received by all the political parties through electoral bonds till September 30 and submit the data to the court in a sealed cover. However, the poll panel’s counsel told the court they had data only till 2019.

Referring to an interim order of April 12, 2019, a bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud had said that the Election Commission was obliged to maintain the data of electoral bond funding to date.

Subsequently, the poll panel agreed to collate the data till September and had in November handed over to the court a sealed cover containing the data about the electoral bonds sold and encashed before April 12, 2019.

On Thursday, the poll panel moved the Supreme Court that it had not kept any copies of the data that it presented to the court with itself to maintain confidentiality. It sought the return of the data from the court so that it could be uploaded on its website in compliance with the court’s March 11 direction.

On March 11, while rejecting the State Bank of India’s plea seeking more time to furnish the data on electoral bonds, the Supreme Court asked the Election Commission to also publish the data of bonds sold and encashed prior to April 12, 2019.

On Friday, the bench headed by Chandrachud instructed the registrar general to ensure that the data filed by the poll panel is scanned and digitised by 5 pm on Saturday. The original copy was to be returned to the commission once the process of digitisation is completed.

This was after on February 15, the court struck down the electoral bonds scheme as unconstitutional. The court had directed the State Bank of India to issue details of the political parties that received electoral bonds from April 12, 2019, and submit them to the Election Commission.

Electoral bonds were monetary instruments that citizens or corporate groups could buy from the State Bank of India and give to a political party, which could then redeem them.

The entire process was anonymous since buyers were not required to declare their purchase of these interest-free bonds and political parties did not need to show the source of the money. However, the Centre could access information about these donors as it controls the State Bank of India.

The electoral bonds scheme was introduced by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government in 2018.

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The electoral bonds data

The poll panel on Thursday made public the electoral bonds data given to it by the State Bank of India. This came a day after the State Bank of India informed the Supreme Court that it had furnished details of anonymously purchased electoral bonds by contributors and encashed by political parties between April 2019 and February 15, 2024, to the Election Commission.

An initial analysis of the data showed that lottery giant Future Gaming and Hotel Services was the top purchaser of electoral bonds, as it had bought bonds worth Rs 1,368 crore.

The BJP has received the lion’s share of political funding through the scheme.

However, the data did not mention the unique codes that would link the identities of the purchasers and the recipients.

On Friday, the court verbally observed that the State Bank of India must disclose the unique code on each electoral bond. Justice Chandrachud directed a notice to be issued to the bank.

Read more analysis on this topic by the Project Electoral Bond, a collaborative project involving Scroll, The News Minute, Newslaundry and freelance journalists.