The anonymous donor scheme to fund political parties, ‘Electoral Bonds’ has come under scanner in the Supreme Court of India on Friday. The court ordered parties to furnish receipts, details of funds and donors in a sealed envelope to the Election Commission by the 30th of May.
A petition filed by Association of Democratic Reforms asked for the systems of electoral bonds be stopped or for donors to be disclosed for transparency in the poll process.
A judge bench headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “We have considered the matter. We examined the stand by the Election Commission. For the present, it needs hearing and it can’t be concluded in a short span of time. The court has to ensure interim arrangement and should not tilt favour of any party.”
The court did not stop the electoral bonds scheme but instead reduced the window of purchase from 10 days to 5 in April and May periods due to national elections.
The court on Thursday said the the government’s efforts to check black money in polls with electoral bonds would be useless if identity of those purchasing the bonds were kept in secret.
The government’s lawyer KK Venugopal argued that the banks know which customer bought the bonds, but don’t know to which party it was issued to. He argued that the system of Electoral Bonds was to ensure clean money funds parties. “Do not let transparency kill the electoral bond scheme,” Mr. Venugopal told the court.
The electoral bond scheme, notified in January last year, allows the purchase of electoral bonds that a political party can receive and en cash through a bank account.
The bonds can be bought at a bank in denominations ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 10 million, and given to a political party, which can exchange them for cash.
The Election Commission has been against the scheme, it said, “open the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies, which can have serious repercussions on the Indian democracy.”