In the run up to the Gujarat Assembly elections, transparency campaigner and RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd.) on Saturday filed a formal complaint with Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, demanding a stay on the ‘unscheduled sale’ of Electoral Bonds.
This unscheduled sale, enabled by an amendment to the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018 by the Central government on November 7, had come about when the Model of Code of Conduct (MCC) was in place due to the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat and should be construed as a violation of it, the complaint sought to argue.
On May 26, 2017, the complaint stated, the Election Commission of India had told the Legislative Department of the Ministry of Law & Justice that it had found “serious flaws” in respect to the amendments.
Coming under fire from activists and experts alike almost immediately after announcing the move, on November 7, the Centre amended the Electoral Bond Scheme to grant itself the power to spell out an extra fortnight of electoral bond sales in years when States and Union Territories with a legislature had polls using it further to open a fresh one-week window for issuing such bonds starting November 9.
Introducing the scheme in the month of January, 2018, as a means ‘to cleanse the system of political funding in the country’, the Finance Ministry had stated that these would be available for a period of 10 days each in January, April, July and October, as per specification by the Central government.
An additional period of 30 days, however, could be specified by the Centre in years of General Elections to the House of People or the Lok Sabha.
An alternative to cash donations made to political parties, the government had, last month, notified a ten-day window for the 22nd tranche of such bonds, which can be purchased by Indian citizens or entities incorporated or established in the country, to be issued and encashed solely by the State Bank of India (SBI).
The constitutional validity of Electoral Bonds is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court, on December 6.