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Monday, April 22 2024
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Supreme Court Decides Electoral Bonds Today

Supreme Court
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court will today pronounce its verdict on a set of petitions challenging the validity of the electoral bonds scheme. Chief Justice DY Chandrachud is leading a five-judge Constitution bench that reserved its decision on November 2nd of the previous year. Introduced by the government on January 2, 2018, the electoral bonds scheme aimed to replace cash donations and improve transparency in political funding.

Electoral bonds function as a financial tool allowing individuals and businesses to contribute funds to political parties discreetly, without disclosing their identities. Citizens of India or entities e stablished in the country can purchase these bonds in various denominations, ranging from ₹1,000 to ₹1 crore, from all branches of the State Bank of India (SBI). These donations are interest-free.

Anonymity is a key aspect of electoral bonds. The identities of donors remain undisclosed to the public or the receiving political party. However, the government and the bank maintain records of the purchaser’s details for auditing purposes, ensuring the legitimacy of the funding sources.

During last year’s proceedings, Attorney General R Venkataramani argued that the Constitution does not guarantee citizens an absolute right to information regarding the source of funds used for political party funding through electoral bonds. He contended that the scheme promotes transparency and clean money in elections. However, he noted limitations to the right to information, stating it cannot be an unrestricted right to know “anything and everything.”

According to the scheme’s provisions, only political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and those securing not less than 1 percent of the votes in the last Lok Sabha or state legislative assembly elections are eligible to receive electoral bonds. Additionally, these bonds can only be encashed by eligible political parties through authorized bank accounts, as specified in the notification.

In April 2019, the Supreme Court declined to stay the electoral bonds scheme, citing the need for a comprehensive hearing due to “weighty issues” raised by the Centre and the Election Commission. The current Constitution bench, comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, commenced hearing arguments on October 31st of the previous year. The petitions included those filed by Congress leader Jaya Thakur, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

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