Published On: Thu, Feb 15th, 2024

SC scraps electoral bonds scheme, upholds citizens’ right to know

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday nullified the electoral bond scheme, saying it goes against the right to information and the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution.

It instructed that the issuing bank shall stop issuing electoral bonds

The court, in a landmark judgement that will have far-reaching consequences, ordered the State Bank of India to reveal to the Election Commission the names of the donors to the scheme that was launched six years ago.

A five-judge Constitution bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud gave two separate and unanimous verdicts on the petitions challenging the scheme, dealing a huge setback to the central government. Announcing the verdict, the CJI said the scheme violates the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of Constitution.

The bench said the fundamental right to privacy also covers citizens’ right to political privacy and affiliation. It also declared as invalid the amendments made in various laws, including the Representation of Peoples Act and the Income Tax laws.

It instructed that the issuing bank shall stop issuing electoral bonds and the State Bank of India shall provide details of electoral bonds bought since April 12, 2019 till date to the Election Commission.

The top court had on November 2 last year concluded its verdict in the matter. The scheme, which was announced by the government on January 2, 2018, was proposed as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties as part of efforts to bring transparency in political funding.

According to the provisions of the scheme, electoral bonds may be bought by any citizen of India or entity incorporated or established in the country. An individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals without disclosing the identity.

Critics have said this removes transparency in electoral funding and gives an advantage to the ruling parties.

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