The Supreme Court intends to investigate contributions given to political parties through electoral bonds, which could pose problems for parties that have benefited from these donations due to worries about reciprocal arrangements with contributors. According to their prior interim decision, the court has instructed the Election Commission to provide the relevant details. Several petitions have been circulated questioning the propriety of anonymous fundraising via electoral bonds.
The Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it would investigate details of donations to political parties made through the electoral bond route, a move that could upset parties that have been in power because of the possibility of a quid pro quo between donors and regimes favored by them, as emphasized by the petitioners.
“The appropriate interim direction would be to mandate all political parties that have received donations through electoral bonds to submit comprehensive information, sealed, to the Election Commission of India,” the 2019 order stated. This information should include information about each bond’s donors, the amount connected with each bond, and a complete record of the credits received for each bond. This contains information about the bank account from which the credited amount was received as well as the date of each such credit.”
The Election Commission’s Amit Sharma stated that political parties have only supplied information for the year 2019, citing the Supreme Court’s interim order, which wanted information till April 12, 2019. The bench, however, disagreed, claiming that the interim order was a continuing instruction and that the next paragraph in the order applied to electoral bonds issued until April 12, 2019.
“You (Election Commission) must have information about donations made to political parties through electoral bonds as per the interim order,” the Chief Justice-led panel directed. Keep it on hand in case it is called up in court. We may examine it at a later date.”
Prashant Bhushan, an advocate for the NGO ‘Association for Democratic Reforms,’ began the arguments. He claimed that the government issued electoral bonds despite warnings from both the Election Commission and the Reserve Bank of India about their negative consequences on political party funding transparency, the democratic process, and the economy.
Bhushan underlined that by allowing foreign entities, large-scale entities, secret sources, and benami companies to transmit unaccounted black money through shell companies, electoral bonds virtually legitimized unfettered anonymous donations. The introduction of electoral bonds made it easier for illegal funds to enter the election process. Because of the reciprocal link between the ruling government and corporate titans, this, according to Bhushan, had enabled large-scale corruption, often known as crony capitalism.
He went on to say that 31 political parties had received a total of Rs 16,438 crore in donations during the previous six years. The business sector contributed Rs 4,615 crore, while electoral bonds contributed Rs 9,188 crore. Other sources contributed Rs 2,635 crore. Bhushan also highlighted a large increase in poll bond donations, which had increased seven-and-a-half times between 2018 and 2022. He said that the BJP has received the lion’s share of electoral bonds, accounting for 74.7% of all such bonds purchased in the country, totaling Rs 5,272 crore.
Bhushan claimed that when individuals are uninformed of political parties’ financing sources, it violates their fundamental right to knowledge and hinders their capacity to vote for an honest candidate from a clean political party. He came to the conclusion that electoral bonds fostered corruption and quid pro quo interactions among corporate entities, skewing the level playing field in elections.
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