Electoral Bonds scheme lacked transparency, abetted black money, says ADR chairman

Published - March 31, 2024 07:11 pm IST - MYSURU

Trilochan Sastry of Association for Democratic Reforms delivering a talk on Electoral Bonds in Mysuru on Sunday.

Trilochan Sastry of Association for Democratic Reforms delivering a talk on Electoral Bonds in Mysuru on Sunday. | Photo Credit: M.A. Sriram

The electoral bonds introduced by the government, which the Supreme Court subsequently struck down, was lacking in transparency and went against the spirit of democracy.

It also failed to curb the use of black money in elections which was one of the justification for the introduction of the poll funding scheme.

This was stated by Trilochan Sastry, chairman and founder member of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) which was one of the petitioners that had challenged the poll funding scheme in the Supreme Court which described it as unconstitutional.

Prof. Shastry was participating in an interactive session preceded by his talk on electoral bonds organised by Mysuru Open Forum, here on Sunday.

Prof. Shastry pointed out that the electoral bond scheme was introduced on January 2, 2018 and the Election Commission of India went on to seize the highest amount ever of unaccounted-for cash during the 2019 elections which deflated one of the justification for introducing the electoral bond scheme – of curbing the use of black money in elections.

What is pertinent is that even the Election Commission of India had its reservation about the scheme before it was floated and had given its response to the government, stating that the scheme was a retrograde step as far as transparency of donations is concerned and this provision needs to be withdrawn.

The ECI also stated in its response that one cannot find out if the political party received donations in violation of the provisions under Section 29B of the Representation of the People’s Act 1951 which prohibits political parties from securing donations from foreign sources or government companies, said Prof. Sastry.

‘’The ECI went on to state that unlimited corporate funding would increase the use of black money for political funding through shell companies,” Prof. Sastry added.

Equally disconcerting is the fact that the government had stated in public that the electoral bonds were being introduced to usher in transparency but its defence in the court was contrarian to the stated objectives and it had argued that the donor identity had to be maintained.

He also refuted the narrative being peddled by a section of law makers and media that the country will revert to the earlier “rotten system” of poll funding.

Prof. Sastry said the key issue here was the lack of transparency in the absence of which EB scheme could become a tool for extortion by the powers that be or result in a quid pro quo benefitting some companies as evident in the disclosure on purchase of electoral bonds.

On the future of electoral funding Prof.Trilochan Sastry said it has to adhere to the principles of transparency and impose restriction on funding by individuals and companies lest they influence policies and decision-making..

But when the electoral bond scheme was introduced the Government amended the existing law that restricted electoral funding to the tune of 7.5 per cent of the net profit after tax and paved way for unlimited funding, he added.

Prof. Sastry said apart from the use of black money in elections, there was the tendency to bribe the voters by distributing cash, liquor, etc., to influence their decision and this has to be curbed. The voters on their part should realise that by selling one’s vote society will only get bad health care, bad roads, etc.

M. Umapathy, retired professor of Political Science, University of Mysore, V.K. Nataraj, former Director, Madras Institute of Development Studies and others were present.

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