Why did SBI not give ECI electoral bonds’ numbers to be made public, SC asks

The Supreme court issued notice to the State Bank of India and listed the case on March 19.

March 15, 2024 11:09 am | Updated 12:22 pm IST - New Delhi

Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court of India. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

The Supreme Court on March 15 sought a response from the State Bank of India (SBI) on the non-disclosure of the unique alphanumeric numbers of individual electoral bonds to the Election Commission of India (ECI) for publication on its official website.

“In our judgment of February 15, we had directed disclosure specifically of all the details of the electoral bonds, including date of their purchase, the amount, names of purchasers, the political parties which redeemed the bonds, etc. But the bank has not disclosed the numbers of the bonds purchased and encashed. Why?” Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, heading a five-judge Bench, asked during a special hearing.

The court issued notice to the bank and listed the case on March 19.

The Bench further agreed to return to the ECI documents regarding electoral bonds it had given the court on two past occasions in compliance with judicial orders passed on April 12, 2019 and November 2, 2023.

The ECI had given these documents to the court in sealed envelopes and boxes.

On February 15, the five-judge Bench, in its judgment, had directed the ECI to publish, along with the details of electoral bonds in its possession, the confidential information passed on to the court.

However, the ECI had filed an application on March 14 saying  that it had given the court the originals of the documents and not retained any copies. The ECI said it had handed over to the Supreme Court a sealed cover, which contained 106 sealed envelopes, and then sealed boxes containing a total of 523 sealed envelopes in two tranches in pursuance of the judicial orders of April 2019 and November 2023.

“We presumed you would have retained copies,” Chief Justice Chandrachud addressed advocate Amit Sharma, appearing for the ECI.

The court ordered its Registry to scan and digitise the copies of the documents in the course of the day and finish the work by tomorrow. The originals would be returned to the ECI along with a digitised copy. 

The ready availability of the digitised copy of the documents, that too taken by the Supreme Court itself, would help avert any delay in the publication of these records regarding the electoral bonds.

The court, in its February 15 judgment, had required the SBI to provide the ECI with the complete details, including dates of purchase; the names of the purchasers; the  denominations of the bonds purchased along with the details of bonds redeemed by political parties, including the dates of encashment and denominations of the electoral bonds. 

The SBI had said a total of 22,217 electoral bonds were purchased and 22,030 were redeemed by political parties between April 1, 2019 and February 15, 2024.

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