The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will take up the petitions challenging the Centre’s electoral bonds scheme on Friday, reported PTI.
The top court is hearing a batch of pleas questioning the validity of and seeking a stay on the scheme, which was introduced in January 2018. The petitioners include the Association for Democratic Reforms and Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Electoral bonds are monetary instruments that citizens or corporate groups can buy from the State Bank of India and give to a political party, which is then free to redeem them for money. These bonds are anonymous.
The Centre filed a fresh affidavit before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, saying electoral bonds were a positive step in the right direction to ensure “accountability and transparency” in conducting elections, reported ANI. The government said electoral bonds were introduced to deal with corruption in elections.
It said that a massive amount of political donations were earlier made in cash by individuals or corporates using “illicit means of funding” and that unaccounted black money was pumped in to finance elections, PTI reported.
After the Election Commission, in an earlier affidavit, expressed concerns on the scheme, the Centre on Tuesday once again insisted that electoral bonds would in fact help clean up the system. In a fresh affidavit, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government said that the Election Commission’s objections are “without legal or factual merit”, reported News18. The affidavit, filed by the finance ministry, said that “the amendments...has been introduced as a pioneer step in bringing electoral reforms to ensure that the spirit of transparency and accountability in political finding is maintained”.
On March 27, the Election Commission had filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court, saying that the introduction of electoral bonds coupled with the removal of the cap on corporate funding by the Narendra Modi-led government will have a “serious impact” on the transparency of political funding.
However, the Centre had told the Supreme Court in March, in response to the petition filed by Sitaram Yechury, that the decision to issue the bonds would promote transparency in funding and donations received by political parties.
“They [bonds] can be encashed by an eligible political party only through their accounts with authorised banks,” the Centre’s affidavit said. “The bonds do not have the name of the donor or the receiving political party and only carry unique hidden alphanumeric serial numbers as an in-built security feature.”
The Association of Democratic Reforms has sought a stay in the scheme, claiming that it has “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 on the Indian democracy”.