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Who bought electoral bonds, SC asks parties

Rejecting the government’s plea to steer clear of the electoral bonds scheme for political funding, the Supreme Court on Friday passed an interim order directing political parties to provide complete information to the Election Commission in sealed covers on every single donor and contribution received till date.

A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, said the issue of electoral bonds and their lack of transparency raised “weighty issues with tremendous bearing on the sanctity of the electoral process in the country.”

In-depth hearing

It said the challenge to the scheme would require in-depth hearing and there was very little time for that now as the bonds would stop being issued by May 15 as per a Ministry of Finance schedule.

The court said its interim order was meant to ensure that the balance was not tilted in anybody’s favour for the time being. It ordered the parties to forthwith provide the EC with “detailed particulars of the donors as against each bond; the amount of each such bond and the full particulars of the credit received against each bond, namely, the particulars of the bank account to which the amount has been credited and the date of each such credit.”

Details of further transactions made through the bonds till May 15 — the last date of their issuance — should be filed before May 30, 2019.

“The sealed covers will remain in the custody of the Election Commission of India, and it will abide by such orders as may be passed by the court,” the court said. The CJI said the dates for final hearing would be announced at an “appropriate” time.

The directions come a day after the government claimed that voters need not know from where funds come to parties.

Lion’s share went to BJP

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioner NGO, Association of Democratic Reforms, argued that 95% of the payments through the bonds had been routed to the BJP. The EC also submitted in the court on Thursday that the lion’s share of contributions through the bonds had gone to the ruling party.

Govt. justifies scheme

The government, however, justified the scheme as an experiment to eradicate the evil of black money.

It claimed that the impact would be known only after the Lok Sabha election. It should, meanwhile, be given a free hand to execute its policy and the court should not pass any order for the present, the government submitted.

The Centre’s position was starkly in contrast to the stand of the EC. The EC had expressed reservations about transparency in political funding. It submitted that the electoral bonds legalised the anonymity of political donors and the parties receiving contributions.