Give info to ECI on each donor, each electoral bond in sealed covers: SC orders political parties

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said the issue of electoral bonds and their lack of transparency is a "weighty" one and requires in-depth hearing.

April 12, 2019 11:42 am | Updated November 28, 2021 09:54 am IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

Refusing the government's advice to steer clear of the electoral bonds scheme of political funding, the Supreme Court on Friday passed interim directions, directing political parties to provide full information on each and every political donor and contributions made through electoral bonds in sealed cover to the Election Commission of India (ECI).

 

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said the issue of electoral bonds and their lack of transparency was a "weighty" one and required in-depth hearing.

The court ordered the political parties to start providing forthwith the Election Commission of India (ECI) with details of each donor, every electoral bond through which contribution was received and the amount received on each bond till date.

 

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing petitioner NGO Association of Democratic Reforms, has argued that 95% of the payments through electoral bonds till date have been routed to the BJP. The ECI also submitted on Thursday that a lion's share of the contributions via electoral bonds had gone to the ruling party.

The parties have been given time to provide all the details before May 30. The information is to be provided to the ECI in sealed covers. The poll body would keep them secure.

The court said it did not want to "tilt the balance" in anyone's favour as of now. However, adequate safeguards needed to be taken now itself. The CJI said the final and detailed hearing in the case would take place later at an "appropriate" time.

The court's directions comes a day after the government claimed that voters do not need to know where funds come to political parties from.

The court cannot “kill” the electoral bonds scheme for the sake of transparency, Attorney-General K.K. Venugopaol had argued.

Mr. Venugopal had submitted that electoral bonds scheme was an experiment to eradicate the evil of black money. The court should not intervene now.

The government's position was starkly in contrast to the stand of the ECI.

The ECI had submitted to the apex court that electoral bonds have legalised anonymity of political donors and the parties receiving contributions.

The ECI had said the right to vote meant the right to make an informed choice. The Commission said knowing the candidate was only “half the exercise.” The voters should also know the source of funding of political parties who prop up these candidates. “It is more important to know the principal than the agent,” ECI counsel and senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi had submitted.

To this, Mr. Venugopal had countered on Thursday that “their contention is that voters have a right to know. Right to know what? Voters do not need to know where money of political parties comes from .”

The AG said “transparency cannot be used as a mantra”. He said elections are being fuelled by black money, which is democracy’s greatest evil.

Mr. Bhushan had pointed to how earlier there was anonymity in political funding through cash donations, and now, electoral bonds, allow anonymity in political funding through banking channels.

“And cash donations can still continue...” Chief Justice Gogoi had added.

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