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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Supreme Court flags possible misuse of funds received through electoral bonds

The bench was hearing a plea by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking stay on allowing any fresh sale of the bonds while its petition challenging the Electoral Bonds Scheme is pending before the court. The court reserved its order on the plea.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: March 25, 2021 3:55:56 am
As former finance minister Arun Jaitley said in his budget speech in 2017, without transparency of political funding, free and fair elections are not possibleThe introduction of electoral bonds through the budget was not an isolated act.

The Supreme Court Wednesday flagged the possibility of misuse of money received by political parties through electoral bonds for ulterior objects like funding terror or violent protests and asked the Centre whether it has any control on the end use.

“We are sure there are political parties who have violence on their agenda. Can a political party not fund terrorist operations?…We don’t want to get into politics and comment on any party, but can’t a party receive bonds and then fund a protest which turns violent…What is the control of the government on what use the money is put to?” a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde sought to know.

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, was hearing a plea by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking stay on allowing any fresh sale of the bonds while its petition challenging the Electoral Bonds Scheme is pending before the court. The court reserved its order on the plea.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that only white money is involved in the Bonds as the amounts are paid only through cheque or demand draft. He added it was devised to take on the menace of black money in politics.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pointed out that KYC norms too have to be followed.

Appearing for the Election Commission, Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi said the electoral body was not opposed to the bonds but was only concerned about the aspect of anonymity, which, he added, is a matter of final hearing. He urged the court not to stay the bonds and said the scheme is one step forward compared to the old system of cash funding, which was unaccountable.

Dwivedi also informed the bench that all major political parties had complied with the court’s earlier direction asking them to submit details of the funds received by them through the bonds with the Election Commission.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for ADR, however said that the bonds do not stop black money. He said there is complete anonymity about the donor and the Election Commission as well as Reserve Bank of India had earlier raised objections to the scheme.

Earlier, donations up to Rs 25 lakh could be done anonymously but now crores of money can be donated anonymously, he said.

In January 2020, the Supreme Court had refused to grant interim stay on the scheme and sought responses of the Centre and the Election Commission on an interim application by the NGO seeking stay on it.

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