Plea in SC for urgent hearing on electoral bonds scheme in light of upcoming Bihar polls

ADR states that scheme allows unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which can have serious repercussions on Indian democracy

Supreme Court of India (File photo)
Supreme Court of India (File photo)

NH Web Desk

An application has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking urgent hearing of the pending challenge to the electoral bonds scheme, legal news website has reported.

The application filed by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) through advocate Prashant Bhushan seeks to highlight the issue, which involves "corruption and subversion of democracy through illicit & foreign funding of political parties and lack of transparency in the accounts of all political parties."

It states that an urgent hearing is needed in the case in light of the upcoming Bihar elections. The last hearing in the matter was almost nine months ago.

ADR further states that the window of selling electoral bonds was not opened earlier this year, but was opened in October right before the Bihar polls.

The petitioners had sought to strike down certain amendments made through the Finance Act, 2017 and the earlier Finance Act, 2016, which were both passed as money bills.

The application states that such an amendment had "opened doors to unlimited political donations, even from foreign companies and thereby legitimizing electoral corruption at a huge scale, while at the same time ensuring complete non-transparency in political funding."

ADR had filed two applications - one in March 2019 and another in November 2019 - for grant of stay on the implementation of the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018.

Substantiating the need for an urgent hearing, the application states that with the Bihar elections approaching, the electoral bonds issue needs adjudication.

"Right before the Bihar legislative assembly elections, the State Bank of India, in the XIV Phase of sale, has been authorized to issue and encash Electoral Bonds through its 29 Authorized branches w.e.f. 19.10.2020 to 28.10.2020 and thus is even when notification stipulates sale of electoral bonds in January, April, July and October months of each year; the window was not opened in April and July, but has been opened in October, right before the Bihar legislative election," reads the application.

ADR states that the scheme has opened 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.

The amendments under challenge have removed the existing cap of 7.5% of net profit in the last 3 years on campaign donations by companies and have legalised anonymous donations.

In January, the Supreme Court had declined to grant an immediate stay on the implementation of the electoral bonds scheme, ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections.

This after ADR filed an application seeking a stay on the implementation of the scheme till the main matter challenging the validity of the same is decided by the Apex Court.

The application referred to investigative reports, which suggest that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had repeatedly opposed amendments to the RBI Act and the Finance Bill, 2017, as well as the electoral bonds scheme.

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