Electoral bonds SC verdict: Political influence of money extends to poll outcomes and government decisions

The Supreme Court says economic inequality leads to political inequality, giving rich donors a seat at the table and a chance to influence policy-making

February 15, 2024 10:24 pm | Updated February 16, 2024 10:54 am IST - NEW DELHI

CJI Justice D. Y. Chandrachud pronounces the judgement on the petitions challenging the Electoral Bonds Scheme, on February 15, 2024.

CJI Justice D. Y. Chandrachud pronounces the judgement on the petitions challenging the Electoral Bonds Scheme, on February 15, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Supreme Court on Thursday said that the influence of money over electoral politics in India is not limited to electoral outcomes but spills over to government decisions as well.

Electoral bonds verdict updates | Supreme Court declares electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional

“The legal regime in India does not distinguish between campaign funding and electoral funding. The money which is donated to political parties is not used by the political party only for the purposes of electoral campaigns. Party donations are also used, for instance, to build offices for the political party and pay party workers,” observed Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, heading a Constitution Bench which struck down the electoral bonds scheme.

Again, the window for financial contributions to political parties is not open for a limited period prior to the elections, he noted. Money can be contributed to political parties throughout the year. “The contributed money can be spent by the political party for reasons other than just election campaigning,” the Chief Justice said.

Money buys access, influence

The court said that the economic inequality between rich political contributors, mostly corporations and companies, and ordinary citizens lead to “differing levels of political engagement because of the deep association between money and politics”.

At a primary level, political contributions give a “seat at the table” to the contributor or enhanced access to legislators.

“The access also translates into influence over policy-making. An economically affluent person has a higher ability to make financial contributions to political parties, and there is a legitimate possibility that financial contribution to a political party would lead to quid pro quo arrangements because of the close nexus between money and politics,” the court explained.

Chief Justice Chandrachud said that the influence of money over politics has made it all the more necessary for voters to access information about political funding, which will enable them to assess if there is a correlation between policy-making and financial contributions.

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