A view of the Supreme Court of India, New Delhi. (Source: PTI)

Supreme Court Asks Parties To Submit Details Of Donations Through Electoral Bonds In Sealed Covers By May 30

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Congress Hails Supreme Court Order On Electoral Bonds

The Congress welcomed the Supreme Court judgement on electoral bonds, saying the party has always maintained that transparency in political funding and governance must be adhered to.

Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi took a swipe at the Bharatiya Janata Party and said the judgement would bring out the "nexus" between the saffron party and its "suited-booted friends".

We welcome this judgement coming from the Supreme Court. We have always maintained that transparency in political funding, transparency in governance must be adhered to.
Priyanka Chaturvedi, Congress Spokesperson

Chaturvedi alleged that the BJP, which came to power on the back of promises like bringing in transparency in the system, has done nothing towards it.

She also alleged that the BJP has undermined the Right to Information and the Central Vigilance Commission and the party is doing everything to suppress transparency in governance.

"We hope that the BJP would explain how they got such kind of political funding. We also hope this would expose the nexus between their suited-booted friends and the political party, which has within its five years not given development to this country, but developed a five-star headquarter for itself in Delhi," she said.

Parties To Submit Details Of Each Bond's Donor Before EC, Says CJI

The Supreme Court has directed all political parties receiving funding through electoral bonds to submit detailed particulars of donors of each bond to the Election Commission.

The details of bonds received up till May 15, 2019 will have to be submitted before May 30, in sealed covers, CJI Gogoi said. The court also directed the finance ministry to remove five extra days in April and May for purchasing electoral bonds, Bloomberg reported.

This means the apex court has refused to put an interim stay on the usage of electoral bonds - the key ask made by the plea being heard today. The date for the final hearing on the funding instrument will be announced later.

'Such Issues Require In-Depth Hearing,' Says CJI

The Supreme Court bench - consisting of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjeev Khanna - has assembled.

The Chief Justice said that the apex court will announce the operative part in today’s hearing, after having closely examined the stand taken by all including election commission.

"Such issues will require an in-depth hearing,” Gogoi said. “The court has to ensure that any interim arrangement made will not tilt the balance in favour of either parties.”

The Election Commission's Stand

The Election Commission said the scheme ran counter to the idea of transparency in political funding. Opposing electoral bonds in the Supreme Court, the commission in its affidavit informed the court about the letters it had written about the amendments in May 2017.

Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, who appeared for the commission, said it was not against the electoral bonds but its objection is based on the fact that they these instruments enable anonymous donations.

The Election Commission also opposed other amendments to the FCRA in Finance Bill, 2017, which allowed foreign companies with majority stake in Indian entities to donate to political parties.

Also read: A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

What Petitioners Say

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was arguing for the petitioners, asked the court to either halt the scheme or disclose the identity of the donors. Opaqueness of the scheme has opened the floodgates for corruption, he said.

The petition questioned the introduction of electoral bonds through a money bill, arguing that it was done to bypass the Rajya Sabha. “The new amendments are a mala fide attempt to bypass the approval of the Rajya Sabha, which holds an important place in the Constitutional and democratic framework of law-making.”

The act also removed the previous limit of 7.5 percent of the company’s average three-year net profit for political donations as donor is no longer required to name the parties to which contributions are made, the petition pointed out.

“It opens the doors to unchecked, unknown funding to political parties.”

Also read: Billionaire Banker Wants to Know Future of India’s Electoral Bonds