Electoral Bonds

Supreme Court: In applications filed by State Bank of India (‘SBI’) seeking extension of time till June 30 to furnish information relating to the Electoral Bonds (‘EB’), a 5-Judge Constitution Bench comprising of Dr. DY Chandrachud, CJI., Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, JJ. while dismissing the application, said that the requisite information is sufficiently available with the bank, and directed SBI to disclose the information by 12-03-2024.


By, this Court declared the electoral bonds scheme and the provisions of Finance Acts 2017 which amended the provisions of Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 and the Income Tax Act 1961 unconstitutional on the ground that the non-disclosure of the information regarding funding of political parties is violative of the Right to Information of citizens under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The amendments which were introduced by the Finance Act 2017 to the provisions of the Companies Act 2013, permitting unlimited funding of political parties by corporate entities were held to be arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. Accordingly to be unconstitutional.

To give full effect to the judgment, the Court had directed SBI, which was authorised bank to deal with Electoral Bonds under the Electoral Bond Scheme, to submit details of electoral bonds purchased by the contributors and redeemed by Political parties between 12-04-2019 (date on which interim order was passed by SC directing ECI to collect details of contribution) till 15-02-2024. SBI was directed to submit the following details by 6-03-2024 to the Election Commission of India:

a) details of each electoral bond purchased including date of purchase, name of purchaser, and denomination of EB;

b) details of each electoral bond redeemed by pol. parties including the date of encashment and denomination of EB.

The ECI was directed to collate the information to be submitted by SBI and publish it on its website by 13-03-2024.The Court noted that the SBI filed a miscellaneous application before this court 2 days before expiry of deadline seeking extension of time till 30-06-2024 for complying with the direction. The Association for Democratic Reforms4 and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) instituted a petition invoking contempt jurisdiction of Supreme Court against SBI for an alleged willful disobedience of the order of Supreme Court failing to disclose the information by March 6.


The Court noted that Clause 7 (4) of EB Scheme stipulates that the information furnished by buyer of electoral bond shall be treated as confidential by the bank and shall be disclosed only when called upon to do so by a competent court or upon the registration of an offence by a law enforcement agency.

Thus, it said that in terms of the provisions of the EB Scheme itself, SBI is mandated to disclose information when demanded by the Court.

The Court further noted that SBI was seeking an extension of time on the ground that the process of “decoding the EBs and matching the donor to the donations” is a complex and time-consuming exercise.” SBI averred that the information is not available in a digital format, the donor details and the recipient details are available in two separate, matching of information in the two silos is a time-consuming process silos, and there is a large number of data sets to decipher.

Referring to the FAQs on EBs published by SBI, the Court noted that the KYC document must be submitted by the purchaser each time that the bond is purchased, irrespective of whether the purchaser has a KYC verified SBI account. That is, one set of documents can only be used to purchase one EB. Contributors who have an SBI account as well as those who do not, have to submit the EB application, KYC document and proof of payment through NEFT/cheque/DD. Thus, the Court said that the details of EB which have been purchased and which have been directed to be disclosed by this court are readily available.

The Court further noted that the FAQs on EBs published by SBI with respect to redemption of bonds states that each political party can only open one current account for EB redemption. The current account could be opened by the Political party in 29 designated branches. Thus, information about a political party’s encashment of EBs would be stored only in these branches which would be clearly accessible. The slips and other details would have to be submitted to the main branch. There is no dispute about the fact that this process was duly followed.

The Bench stated that irrespective of whether the Unique Id No. which is not discernible to the naked eye will enable the disclosure of details, the submissions of SBI in the application sufficiently indicate that the information which has been directed to be disclosed by the court is readily available.

Thus, the Court dismissed the miscellaneous application filed by SBI seeking an extension of time for disclosure of details of purchase and redemption of EBs until 30-06-2024.Further, it directed SBI to disclose the details by 12-03-2024.

The Bench directed Election Commission of India to compile the information and publish the details in its official website no later than by 15-03-2024 by 5 PM.

Moreover, the Bench directed SBI to file an affidavit of its Chairman and Managing Director on compliance with the directions which have been issued above.

Further, the Bench placed SBI on notice that the Court will be inclined to proceed against it for willful disobedience of the judgment if SBI does not comply with the directions of this Court as set out in its judgment dated 15-02-2024 by the timelines indicated in this order.

Also Read:

Supreme Court strikes down Electoral Bonds Scheme for being violative of right to information under Art. 19(1)(a) of Constitution

[State Bank of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 267, Order dated 11-03-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioner: Harish Salve, Sr. Adv; Tushar Mehta, SG; Sanjay Kapur, AOR; Divya Singh Pundir, Adv; Devesh Dubey, Adv.; Mahima Kapur, Adv.Mansi Kapur, Adv; Shubhra Kapur, Adv; Arjun Bhatia, Adv.; Surya Prakash, Adv.; Isha Virmani, Adv; Prashant Bhushan, AOR; Neha Rathi, Adv; Pranav Sachdeva, Adv.; Kajal Giri, Adv.; Shivani Kapoor, Adv.; Kamal Kishore, Adv; Shadan Farasat, AOR; Harshit Anand, Adv.; Abhishek Babbar, Adv.; Hrishika Jain, Adv; Natasha Maheshwari, Adv; Mreganka Kukreja, Adv; Aman Naqvi, Adv.

For Respondent: R. Balasubramanium, Sr. Adv; Seema Bengani, Adv; Shyam Gopal, Adv; Shradha Deshmukh, Adv.; Chinmayee Chandra, Adv; Kanu Agrawal, Adv.; Rajat Nair, Adv.; Raman Yadav, Adv.; Chitvan Singhal, Adv.; Abhishek Kr. Pandey, Adv.; Kartikay Aggarwal, Adv.; Kukesh Kr. Singh, Adv.; Ameyakirama Thanvi, Adv; Kapil Sibal, Sr. Adv.

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