Supreme Court orders political parties to furnish electoral bond donation details to EC by May 30 [12-04-2019]

New Delhi: All political parties, who received donations through electoral bonds, have been directed by the Supreme Court to furnish receipts and submit all the related details in a sealed cover to the Election Commission by May 30. A three-judge bench of the top court comprising of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna on Friday asked the parties to submit details about the identity of the donors and amount received from each of them till May 15 to the poll panel by May 30, a week after general election results are declared.

Details of funding received through electoral bonds will be kept in a sealed cover by the EC also till further orders. The SC will then examine in detail the changes made in law and ensure that balance does not tilt in favour of any party, said the three-judge bench.

The top court also directed the Finance Ministry to reduce the window of purchasing electoral bonds from 10 days to five days in April-May.

On Thursday, the top court had reserved the interim order on pleas filed by NGOs Common Cause and Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR), and the Communist Party of India (M), which had challenged the validity of the electoral bond scheme and sought that either the issuance of electoral bonds be stayed or the names of donors be made public to ensure transparency in the poll process.

If the identity of the purchasers of electoral bonds meant for transparent political funding is not known, then efforts of the government to curtail black money during polls would be "futile”, the top court said on Thursday.

The Centre had asked the court not to interfere with electoral bonds at this stage and examine whether it has worked or not only after the elections. "So far as the electoral bond scheme is concerned, it is the matter of policy decision of the government and no government can be faulted for taking policy decision," it told the bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

Electoral bonds were introduced by amendments made in the Finance Act 2017 to the Reserve Bank of India Act 1934, Representation of Peoples Act 1951, Income Tax Act 1961 and Companies Act.

The pleas had sought a stay on the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018, which was notified by the Centre in January last year. In its affidavit, the Centre had said the electoral bonds "attempt at bringing greater transparency, ensuring KYC compliance and keeping an audit trail in comparison to the earlier opaque system of cash donations.” It also termed the issuance of electoral bonds by the government as "arbitrary" and "discriminatory".

Voting has already begun in the seven-phase Lok Sabha election with the first round being completed on April 11. Polling will take place on April 18, 23, 29, May 6, 12 and 19 while the votes will be counted on May 23.

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15 Apr 2019