The Supreme Court Wednesday said it would consider according hearing in January a plea of an NGO seeking a stay on the contentious electoral bond scheme.
“We will see in January”, said Chief Justice S A Bobde after lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Association for Democratic Reforms, informed the court that the stay application has been filed.
Bhushan said that the stay on the scheme was needed as it was being “misused by the party in power” and had become akin for money laundering and channelisation of black money.
The Bobde-led bench, comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, was told by Bhushan that around Rs 6,000 crore had been collected under the scheme, which have been red-flagged by institutions like the Reserve Bank of India and the Election Commission of India (ECI).
On Friday, the ADR had moved the apex court seeking a stay on the scheme and had referred to alleged objections raised by the RBI in its application. The plea also said documents obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act showed that the “Reserve Bank of India gave repeated warnings to the government against the electoral bond scheme stating that it has the potential to increase black money circulation, money laundering, cross-border counterfeiting and forgery.”
The electoral bonds scheme floated by the NDA government came under scrutiny after reports revealed how the Finance Ministry pushed ahead with the scheme without addressing any of the objections raised by RBI and EC. According to a HuffPost India report, the RBI said that electoral bonds and an amendment to the RBI Act as sought by the Finance Ministry would set a bad precedent. Electoral bonds, the RBI said, would effectively be a type of “bearer bond”, a notoriously opaque financial instrument that carries no trace of its ownership.
As per the report, RBI’s concerns were dismissed by then Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia in a single short paragraph the same day the finance ministry received the RBI letter.
Two days later, on February 1, 2017, then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley proposed the creation of electoral bonds and the amendment to the RBI Act. The next month, the proposals became law with the passage of the Finance Bill 2017.
Citing documents on the scheme obtained by transparency activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd) under the Right to Information Act, HuffPost India detailed in a series of reports how the scheme was announced in Budget 2017-18. Since March 2018, electoral bonds worth at least Rs 6,128.72 crore were issued, and Rs 6,108.47 crore encashed. The BJP garnered 95 per cent of the Rs 222 crore bonds issued in the first tranche of bonds, according to data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms.