Electoral bonds: SC concern over quid pro quo favours between ruling parties, donors

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 11/3/2023 2:08:12 AM

NEW DELHI, Nov 01: The Supreme Court has flagged that there is a threat of influential entities covertly setting up persons with verified accounts to purchase electoral bonds for them through the regular banking route in order to earn favours or anonymously enter into a quid pro quo with ruling political parties.
Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud, who is heading the five-judge Constitutional Bench looking into pleas against the electoral bonds scheme, on Tuesday The court on Tuesday began specifically hearing four petitions moved by the Association for Democratic Reforms ((ADR), Communist Party of India (Marxist), MP Congress leader Jaya Thakur, and public interest litigation by one Spandan Biswal.
The petitioners urged the court to declare political parties as public offices to bring them under the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) and to compel them to disclose their income and expenditure. They also challenged the constitutional validity of the scheme.
The court observed that anonymity for political donations under the electoral bonds scheme perhaps could be aimed at preventing repercussions from parties to which a person or entity has not donated. “There is also an assumption that if you disclose the name of the donor, there will be other political parties who will know that you have contributed to one particular party… Suppose you are contributing to a party not in power… suppose the donor is carrying on business in the state and his name is made available to all… There is logic there; whether it is valid or not, we have to decide,” CJI Chandrachud said.
However, Kapil Sibal, counsel for one of the petitioners, said in “practical politics”, the donor would inform the political party about his donation.
Another counsel Shadan Farasat said the scheme set up a “legally directed informational blackhole” which could skew the electoral playing field. “The scheme is not meant to reduce the black money funding of political parties, but to re-route the non-anonymous banking channel funding to anonymous electoral bonds.”
Prashant Bhushan, the lawyer for ADR, said that it is a fundamental right of a citizen to know the funding of political parties. Calling electoral bonds “legalised kickbacks”, he said, the system can destroy democracy and tilt the level playing field during elections. He then went on to say that over 90% of the donations go to ruling parties. Therefore, he said they are meant for favours done or anticipated.
However, the Union government in its submission to the court said that citizens’ right to know is subject to reasonable restrictions. Attorney General R. Venkataramani stated that “there can be no general right to know anything” without “reasonable restrictions”. He says the purpose of the scheme will be defeated if donors' names are known.



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