CIC reverses own order on electoral bonds, rules that revealing donors’ names ‘against public interest’
An activist had moved the CIC against SBI’s refusal to share the information, holding that names of the donors could not be disclosed as these fell in the bracket of ‘third party information’
The Central Information Commission (CIC) had in January this year directed the government to reveal the names of electoral bond scheme donors who wanted their identities to remain confidential.
In a reversal of that order, it has now ruled that the disclosure of identity of such donors will not serve any larger public interest and will, in fact, violate provisions of the Act while dismissing an appeal by a Maharashtra-based activist against State Bank of India’s refusal to share the information, as per a report carried by The Indian Express.
This came to the fore when the order issued by Information Commissioner Suresh Chandra was uploaded on CIC’s website on Tuesday.
The RTI applicant, Vihar Durve, had sought the information in this regard from SBI’s CPIO in June, 2018, and appealed to the bank’s First Appellate Authority (FAA) after being dissatisfied by the reply. However, the FAA also ruled that the “information related to electoral bonds issued to political parties was held by the SBI in fiduciary capacity” and that the names of the donors could not be disclosed as these fell in the bracket of ‘third party information’.
After he filed a second appeal with the CIC, as provided by the RTI Act, the CIC upheld the SBI’s stand, holding that “disclosure of names of donors and the donees may be in contravention of provisions contained in section 8 (1) (e) ( j ) of the RTI Act itself, which exempt a public authority to give a citizen information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrant the disclosure of such information”.
The electoral bond scheme allows citizens and corporates to buy monetary instruments from SBI and donate them to political parties, who can redeem them for money. Citizen groups have long been arguing that in the interest of transparency, the identity of such donors must be disclosed.