The Supreme Court on Friday refused any interim stay on the electoral bond scheme and directed all parties to submit details of political funding received so far to the Election Commission in “sealed covers” by May 30.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, ordered the parties to furnish receipts of electoral bonds to the poll body, providing information on the identity of donors and the amount in the account of donors.
The apex court observed that “rival contentions” by the petitioners and respondents “raise weighty issues which have a tremendous bearing on the electoral process” and that the matter will require a detailed hearing. It posted the matter for hearing on an “appropriate date”.
Besides this, the court also directed the Finance Ministry to reduce the window of purchasing electoral bonds from 10 days to five days in April-May.
The top court was hearing a plea by NGO Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) challenging the scheme and seeking either a stay on the bonds or the declaration of names of the donor to ensure transparency in the poll process.
Appearing for petitioner ADR, advocate Prashant Bhushan had earlier said that according to Election Commission figures, bonds worth Rs 210 crore of the total Rs 221 crore purchased had gone to the BJP.
However, objecting to it, Attorney General K K Venugopal said Bhushan was making an election speech. Responding to queries from apex court earlier, he had said “transparency cannot be the mantra” and “my opinion is voters have the right to know about their candidates… why should they know where the money of political parties is coming from”.
The BJP-led NDA government had announced electoral bonds in the earlier budget, claiming that the scheme would clean up political funding. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had also defended the use of electoral bonds, saying that if the donors are asked to disclose names of political parties to whom they give money, it would result in return to the earlier system of usage of cash and black money in political funding.
The government had brought in the electoral bond scheme as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties as part of its efforts to bring transparency in political funding. Under the scheme, the name of the donor is known only to banks.