Supreme Court To Hear Petitions On Electoral Bonds On 11 April, Decide If Matter Should Be Referred To Constitutional Bench
A bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday (21 March) said that it will decide on 11 April whether to refer petitions challenging the validity of the electoral bonds scheme to a Constitutional bench.
The bench, consisting of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha heard the petitions but did not proceed with the hearing as the union government requested time to file a response to the various petitions challenging the scheme.
However, the bench also noted at the very outset, that the matter will be listed on 2 May 2023, for final disposal.
The lead petition in the case was filed by Association For Democratic Reforms (ADR), followed by a spate of petitions from the NGO Common Cause, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Congress leader Jaya Thakur, and others.
The Court had earlier grouped the cases into three distinct sets — challenging the electoral bonds scheme, questioning whether political parties should be brought under the Right to Information Act (RTI) Act, and amendments made to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act through Finance Acts of 2016 and 2018.
The Centre has already filed its response to the ADR petition and has sought time to consider the others.
What Is The Electoral Bonds Scheme?
Electoral Bonds are interest-free bearer instruments that can be used to donate money to political parties anonymously. They can be purchased only through the State Bank of India and donated to a party of choice.
There is no limit on the number of bonds that can be purchased by an individual or a company. However, they are required to complete a know-your-customer (KYC) process before they can buy these bonds.
Why Is The Scheme Controversial?
Political parties aren’t required to disclose donations received through electoral bonds.
Even though parties reveal the amount received to the Election Commission of India every year, the bonds themselves do not bear the name of the donors, and hence their details can never be found.
While the supporters of the scheme claim that it is a step towards ensuring that all donations made to a party are accounted for, which would lead to curbing black money, the petitioners in the case have argued that the scheme has increased “opacity in the electoral system”.
The court had also pointed out that the bonds had been issued in the past “without any impediment” and it had already ordered “certain safeguards” by way of its April 2019 interim order.
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