National Affairs

SC Refers Pleas Challenging Electoral Bond Scheme To Constitution bench

The Supreme Court has sent petitions challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme related to election funding of political parties to the Constitution Bench. 

The next hearing on this will be on October 30.

 The bench of CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra heard this on Monday 16 October.

The bench of three judges said during the hearing – Understanding the importance of this petition, this matter should be placed before a bench of at least five judges. The next hearing of the case will be on October 30 by a constitution bench of 5 judges.

Earlier, the hearing bench had said that they would consider the petition whether it should be sent to a five-judge Constitution bench. For this, while hearing on October 10, the bench had fixed the date of October 31.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for ADR, argued that this type of election funding will promote corruption. Some companies will fund, through unknown means, parties whose governments they benefit from.

Earlier too, Advocate Bhushan had told the SC that it is necessary to decide on this matter before the launch of the Electoral Bond Scheme for the 2024 general elections, after which the Court had decided to schedule it for final hearing.

Four PILs are pending on this matter. One of these petitioners had told the Supreme Court in March that so far parties have received funding of Rs 12,000 crore from electoral bonds and two-thirds of it has gone to a particular party.

This plan was challenged in 2017 itself, but the hearing started in 2019. On April 12, 2019, the Supreme Court directed all political parties to submit all information related to electoral bonds to the Election Commission in an envelope by May 30, 2019. However, the court did not stop this plan.

Later in December, 2019, petitioner Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) moved an application to stay the scheme. 

In this, quoting media reports, it was told how the concerns of the Election Commission and the Reserve Bank on the electoral bond scheme were ignored by the Central Government.

During the hearing on this, former CJI SA Bobde said that the case will be heard in January 2020. 

The hearing was again adjourned for the Election Commission to file its reply. Since then, no hearing has taken place in this matter.

In the 2017 budget, the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had introduced the Electoral Bond Scheme. The Central Government notified it on 29 January 2018. This is a kind of promissory note. Which is also called bank note. Any Indian citizen or company can buy it.

If you want to buy it, you will get it in the selected branch of State Bank of India. The buyer can donate this bond to the party of his choice. Only that party should be eligible for this.

A bond buyer can buy bonds ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 crore. The buyer has to give his complete KYC details to the bank. The party to which the buyer wants to donate this bond should have got at least 1% votes in the last Lok Sabha or Assembly elections. Within 15 days of the donor donating the bond, it has to be encashed by the party through a bank account verified by the Election Commission.

While presenting it in 2017, Arun Jaitley claimed that this would bring transparency in the funding of political parties and the election system. Black money will be curbed. On the other hand, those who oppose it say that the identity of the person purchasing electoral bonds is not disclosed, due to which they can become a means of using black money in elections.

Some people allege that this scheme has been brought keeping in mind the big corporate houses. With this, these families can donate as much as they want to political parties without their identity being revealed.

Information related to electoral bonds…

Any Indian can buy it.

By giving KYC details to the bank, bonds worth Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 crore can be purchased.

The identity of the buyer of the bond remains secret.

The person buying it also gets tax rebate.

These bonds remain valid for 15 days after issuance.

According to the order of the Supreme Court, every party submits the details of donations received through electoral bonds to the Election Commission. But these details are in a sealed envelope. National parties and state parties also have to submit their annual audit reports to the Election Commission.

This report also mentions donations received from electoral bonds. But registered unrecognized parties do not have to submit audit reports and details of electoral bonds are kept in a sealed cover. The 69 registered unrecognized parties which submitted their details to the Election Commission in 2019. ADR did an analysis based on his name.

According to ADR, out of these 69 parties, there are 43 parties for which no vote share data is available. Out of whose vote share data is available, only 1 party fulfills the eligibility criteria for taking donations through electoral bonds. That means the remaining 68 registered unrecognized parties are illegally encashing electoral bonds.

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