The Supreme Court Friday refused to stay for now the contentious electoral bonds scheme, which enables anonymous funding to political parties, but asked all parties to submit to the Election Commission details of electoral bonds received by them till date. The poll body is expected to preserve the furnished details till the time the apex court hears the matter again on an “appropriate day”.
# No stay on electoral bonds. The interim ruling holds significance in that the government has been underlining the donor’s right to secrecy, but that’s a view not shared by the petitioners and the poll panel who are calling for greater transparency and full disclosure.
#All political parties to submit to the Election Commission details of electoral bonds, including identity of donors and the amount in account of donors that they have received till date by May 30. The furnished details will remain in a sealed cover with the poll body till further orders.
#The court said “rival contentions” by the petitioners and respondents “raise weighty issues which have tremendous bearing on electoral process”, adding that the matter will require a detailed hearing. The court said it would examine in detail changes made in law and ensure balance does not tilt in favour of any party
# Excess five days allowed for purchasing the bonds as per the February 28 government notification be deleted, asking the Finance Ministry to reduce window of purchasing electoral bonds from 10 days to five days in April-May.
#The bench is hearing pleas by the CPM and NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) challenging the scheme.
#The Finance Bill, 2017 introduced “electoral bonds” — interest-free bearer bonds (like Promissory Notes) that can be purchased from specified branches of the State Bank of India in a designated 10-day window in every quarter of the financial year. The scheme allows individuals and domestic companies to present these bonds — issued in multiples of Rs 1,000, 10,000, 1 lakh, 10 lakh, and 1 crore — to political parties of their choice, which have to redeem them within 15 days.
#The contribution received by any eligible political party in the form of electoral bonds will be exempt from income-tax as per Section 13A of the Income Tax Act.
#The petitioners have stated that the Electoral Bonds Scheme 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”.
#The government defends the scheme on the ground that it limits the use of cash in political funding, thus bringing more transparency, and provides a shield to donors by granting them anonymity. Attorney General K K Venugopal told the Supreme Court “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 Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that it is “not opposed” to the electoral bond scheme introduced by the government for funding of political parties, but is only concerned about the anonymity brought in by the government.