Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ has directed all the political parties who have received donations through Electoral Bonds to submit,
- 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.
to the Election Commission of India in sealed cover by May 30, 2019.
The aforesaid direction was given in order to ensure that any interim arrangement that may be made would not tilt the balance in favour of either of the parties but that the same ensures adequate safeguards against the competing claims of the parties which are yet to be adjudicated.
In the matter that deals with a larger question involving transparency in political funding, the bench said
“the rival contentions give rise to weighty issues which have a tremendous bearing on the sanctity of the electoral process in the country. Such weighty issues would require an indepth hearing which cannot be concluded and the issues answered within the limited time that is available before the process of funding through the Electoral Bonds comes to a closure, as per the schedule noted earlier.”
The Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs by Notification dated 2.1.2018 in exercise of powers under Section 31(3) of the Reserve Bank of India Act had promulgated a scheme called ‘The Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018’ whereunder an ‘electoral bond’ has been defined as “a bond issued in the nature of promissory note which shall be a bearer banking instrument and shall not carry the name of the buyer or payee.” The other provisions of the Scheme deal with the banks authorized to issue and encash the Electoral Bonds; persons entitled to purchase such bonds and the procedure for making an application for purchase of bonds and encashment of the said bonds.
It was contended before the Court that the said scheme has affected transparency in political funding inasmuch as in the annual contribution reports of political parties to the Election Commission there need not be any mention of the identity of the donors who have contributed to the coffers of the political parties through Electoral Bonds. This, in turn, is contended to affect the citizens’ right to know about the contributions made to various political parties and the source of such contribution.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for ECI, had contended that the said scheme has been introduced to deal with the menace of unaccounted money coming into the country’s economy through political funding. It is to do away with the aforesaid menace that the amendments to the different statutes had been brought by the Finance Act, 2016 and 2017 and the Electoral Bond Scheme has been introduced. He said,
“the implementation of the measures will be tested by the results obtained in the course of the ongoing general elections and the success thereof will be known only after the elections are over. The government must be allowed a free hand to implement measures in execution of policies framed and therefore it is premature for the Court to render any opinion on the issues raised or to pass any order/orders in the matter for the present.”
[Association for Democratic Reforms v. Union of India, WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 333 OF 2015, decided on 12.04.2019]