The Supreme Court is likely to hear pending petitions challenging the electoral bond scheme on 19 September. The petitions filed by the NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) are included in the advance cause list of the apex court on September 19.
The matter last came to court on March 26, 2021, when a bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India SA Bobde dismissed an application filed by ADR, seeking a stay on any fresh sale . electoral bonds Before the then assembly elections to be held.
The top court questioned the claims of “complete anonymity” of the bond buyers and said, “It is not as if the operations under the scheme are behind an iron curtain which is unable to pierce”.
Rejecting the prayer of not allowing any fresh window for their sale till the decision of the main petition challenging the scheme, the court observed that the bonds have already been issued without any hindrance and they ” Some security measures” were ordered.
“Therefore, in the light of the fact that the scheme was launched on 2.1.2018; that the bonds are issued at periodic intervals in January, April, July and October every year; that they may be issued in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 without any and that certain safeguards have already been provided by this Court in its interim order dated 12.4.2019, we do not see any justification for stay at this stage. Both the applications for the same are rejected,” the SC had said.
The court’s reference was to its interim order dated April 12, 2019, by which it had directed political parties receiving donations through electoral bonds to “immediately” submit the details of these bonds to the Election Commission. That order also came on a petition filed by ADR in September 2017.
The NGO had once again approached the court seeking an adjournment in view of the assembly elections. The petition states that the identities of the donors may never be known to the public and referred to the reservations raised for the scheme by the Reserve Bank of India and the Election Commission.
The bench referred to the Election Commission seeking details of the contribution received by way of bonds pursuant to its April 2019 order, and said, “We do not know at this stage how far the allegation under the scheme will go as far as it is complete. There will be anonymity of sorts. The funding of political parties by corporate houses, both in India and abroad, is sustainable.
“If the purchase of bonds as well as their encashment can take place only through banking channels and if only customers who fulfill KYC norms are allowed to purchase bonds, then the information about the buyer will certainly be with SBI. who is authorized to issue and encash bonds in accordance with the scheme. In addition, any expenditure incurred by any person in purchasing bonds through banking channels shall be included as expenditure in his books of account. The trial balance, cash flow statement, profit and loss account and balance sheet of companies purchasing electoral bonds will have to reflect the amount spent as expenses in the purchase of electoral bonds,” the bench said.
The ADR argued that although the first purchase could be for payment in white money through banking channels, one could use black money to repurchase the bonds and hand it over to a political party.