NEW DELHI :
The Supreme Court on Monday granted two weeks to the Election Commission (EC) and the Centre to file their response to a petition by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-governmental organization, seeking a stay on the electoral bond scheme, notified on 2 January 2018.
Prashant Bhushan, appearing for ADR and Common Cause, told the court that the plea puts on record the objections raised by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), besides other authorities, which were ignored by the Centre. The development was recently disclosed through a Right to Information application.
“They are opening it for every state election. They will again open it for the Delhi election. They will continue getting crores of rupees. Both the RBI and the Election Commission have raised objections to the scheme," he added.
The government had on 2 January 2018 notified the electoral bond scheme. These bonds could be purchased by any Indian citizen or corporate entity from any State Bank of India branch.
However, the anonymity provided to the donor and the recipient political party has raised concerns among campaigners over transparency in political funding. Critics of the scheme have contended that as the donor’s name is not known, any shell company can donate and the source from where the money is coming would be difficult to trace.
ADR had approached the apex court last year and had sought a stay on the scheme on the grounds that the anonymity of the donor in the case of electoral bonds flouts the objective of transparency that the scheme promised to achieve.
“The petitioner is filing the instant application to bring on record certain vital documents which have surfaced recently and have a strong bearing on the instant case. The said documents have been disclosed under the RTI Act and have also been reported in the media," the plea said.
The provisions of the Representation of the People Act, the Income Tax Act, the Companies Act, and the Reserve Bank of India Act had been amended under the Finance Act, 2017, and Finance Act, 2016, to accommodate the scheme’s objective of keeping the donors’ identity and details of the political parties receiving the electoral bond, anonymous. Following the amendments a political party has no obligations to disclose the amount received through electoral bonds to either the poll panel or the IT department.
ADR has appealed to the court to look into the amendments.