Supreme Court on Friday intervened in the ‘Electoral Bonds’, an invention of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while refusing to give a blind okay for the system.
Here is a look at how the SC direction is going to affect the EBs.
What are Electoral Bonds?
EBs are Promissory Notes issued by the State Bank of India. These notes worth Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore. It was announced by Jaitley in 2018 January as a move to bring in transparency to the political fundings.
The donor can buy the bonds from the certain SBI offices on particular days in January, April, July and October months. They can later give it to the respective parties while the parties can encash it to their account within 15 days of issuance.
Here, only the SBI branch from which the Notes are purchased and the receiving political party will know about the donor. The government too can avail the data through SBI.
Donors need not provide their names, address or PAN to contribute less than Rs 20,000.
95% of the EBs, worth Rs 222 crores, from last year were given to BJP, found Association for Democratic Reforms from the audit reports.
The government argues that this ensures no ‘black money’ is involved in the funding. However, critics say that the anonymity of the funder is essentially a danger to democracy.
A Bloomberg study with ADR’s data had shown that 53% of the income of the parties came from unknown sources which include EBs.
Modi government also changed the definition of foreign companies. Now a foreign firm with a stake of less than 50% in a company in India can donate. This outset another danger- Foreign electoral intervention.
Acting on a petition filed by ADR, SC asked the parties to give details of the EBs they received before May 30, 2019. The final hearing on the issue will be held after that. SC, evidently, refrained from giving out any message in favour of either the ruling party or the opposition. But this will not suffice the major demand, to know the funders. Even if RTIs could help, it will happen a month after the results of General Elections are declared.
Congress party has promised to scrap the scheme if it comes to power. CPIM, which vehemently opposed the scheme from the beginning, has welcomed the judgment. The EBs “would have made the entire system prone to crony capitalism with a clear basis for quid pro quo with the ruling party,” the Polit Bureau said in a statement.
“The Polit Bureau notes positively that the interim order itself demolishes the stance taken by the Prime Minister Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the BJP, which had pushed this as a money bill for the opaque and secret electoral bonds. The court has clearly stated transparency is the basic principle of electoral funding. People have the right to know which party has received how much and from whom,” the statement reads.