Published On: Sun, Nov 5th, 2023

Amid verdict on its validity awaited, Centre notifies electoral bond sales

New Delhi: The Centre has notified the next round of sale of electoral bonds, starting November 6 to 20 as Assembly elections are soon to be held in five states. The Finance Ministry’s notification stated that the bonds would be sold at authorised branches of the State Bank of India (SBI) under another tranche of the scheme, which was first approved in 2018.

I disagree with Mr Sibal’s assertion that there is no way to eradicate black money

The Union government’s approval for the sale of bonds comes as the Supreme Court’s final verdict on the validity of the Electoral Bond Scheme (EBS) during a three-day hearing by a constitutional bench of five judges.

Under the scheme, any registered political party which has secured at least 1 per cent of votes in preceding elections is eligible to receive EBS from donors, including anonymous donors.

In the notification issued on November 4, the government stated, “The electoral bond deposited by an eligible political party in its account shall be credited on the same day.”

A bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra took up for hearing four pleas, including those filed by Congress leader Jaya Thakur and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

The batch of pleas challenged the validity of EBS with one of the claims being that the scheme primarily benefits the ruling parties. The Supreme Court also heard alleged flaws in EBS such as non-disclosure of donors, their identity and source of transactions, etc.

During the last hearing, advocate Kapil Sibal, on behalf of the petitioners, argued that EBS could allow corrupt transactions to take place “because one will never know the source! They cannot file an FIR or go to court because they have no data (of EBS)”.

“.If you want to deal with corruption, the first thing is to quash this scheme. It is the surest way to political perpetuity. Secondly, they say EBs are a financial/economic policy– it is not. It’s an election issue. It has changed the fundamental principles of democracy,” Sibal argued.

To this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, “I disagree with Mr Sibal’s assertion that there is no way to eradicate black money. There has been a huge push for digitization. We are moving towards eradicating black money.”

At the hearing, CJI Chandrachud sought data on funds received until September 30, 2023. “We would like the Election Commission of India to get the data regarding EBs funds received till 30 September 2023,” he said.

Now, even as the top court’s final say on the matter was reserved on November 2, the Centre has rolled out another round of EBS with polls barely days away in five states this year.

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