‘Denied information involving taxpayers’ money…’: RTI activist Lokesh Batra as SBI refuses to reveal Electoral Bond data

The SBI refused to disclose under the Right to Information Act the details of the electoral bonds it furnished before the Election Commission. The state-run lender said the information is personal and is held in a fiduciary capacity.

Written By Deepak Upadhyay
First Published11 Apr 2024
Electoral Bond data: The SBI says the information is personal and is held in a fiduciary capacity.
Electoral Bond data: The SBI says the information is personal and is held in a fiduciary capacity.(HT_PRINT)

The State Bank of India (SBI) refused to disclose under the Right to Information (RTI) Act the details of the electoral bonds it furnished before the Election Commission (EC), news agency PTI reported on Thursday. 

The state-run lender said the information is personal and is held in a fiduciary capacity even though the records are available in the public domain on the Election Commission's website.

"Information sought by you is containing details of purchasers and political parties and hence, cannot be disclosed as it is held in fiduciary capacity disclosure of which is exempted under sections 8(1)(e) and (j) of the RTI Act," news agency PTI quoted the SBI's response to the RTI activist.

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Section 8(1)(e) is related to records held in a fiduciary capacity and section 8(1)(j) allows withholding of personal information. 

It is pertinent to note that on February 15, the Supreme Court directed the state-run lender to furnish the complete details of the bonds purchased since April 12, 2019, to the Election Commission. Holding that the electoral bonds scheme is "unconstitutional and manifestly arbitrary", the court further directed the election panel to publish the information on electoral bonds on its website by March 13.

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On March 11, when the SBI sought an extension of the deadline, the apex court dismissed the plea and ordered the lender to disclose the details of the electoral bonds to the election panel by the close of business hours on March 12.

RTI activist Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra had approached the SBI on March 13 seeking the complete data of the electoral bonds in the digital form, as provided to the EC after the apex court order.

Batra told PTI that it was “bizarre” since he was denied the information that was already available on the official EC website.

Besides the electoral bonds data, Batra also wanted information on the fees paid to senior advocate Harish Salve by the bank to defend itself in the Supreme Court. 

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Batra told the news agency that the public sector lender also denied the information regarding Salve's fee citing “the involvement of taxpayer money.”

On March 15, the top court pulled up the state-run bank for not furnishing the complete information by withholding the numbers unique to each electoral bond that would help match the donors with the recipient political parties. The apex court said the bank was "duty-bound" to reveal the information.

The SBI said a total of 22,217 electoral bonds of varying denominations were purchased by the donors between April 1, 2019, and February 15 this year, of which 22,030 were redeemed by political parties. 

 

 

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