India

Public interest litigation against electoral bond scheme cannot be heard before Dussehra holiday: SC

By PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said it will not be able to hear on October 8 a plea by an NGO seeking a direction to the Center not to open any further window for sale of electoral bonds. , unless a case is pending. The perceived lack of transparency in political parties and their accounts.

A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana made the remarks after advocate Prashant Bhushan requested that the NGO’s PIL, ‘Association for Democratic Reforms’, not be dropped from the list of matters scheduled for hearing on October 8.

“Friday (October 8) is the last day (before Dussehra holiday). We may not be able to take it (for hearing),” the bench said.

The NGO, which had filed a PIL in 2017 on the alleged issue of corruption and democracy through illegal and foreign funding of political parties and lack of transparency in the accounts of all political parties, had filed an interim application in March this year. There have been demands not to reopen the window for the sale of electoral bonds in the West Bengal and Assam assembly elections.

The NGO, in its application in the pending petition, had claimed that there is a serious apprehension that any sale of electoral bonds ahead of the upcoming assembly elections, including in West Bengal and Assam, will lead to further increase in illegal and illegal funding of political parties. . through shell companies”.

It had alleged that as per the data on electoral bonds declared by political parties in their audit reports for 2017-18 and 2018-19, “the ruling party had received more than 60 per cent of the total electoral bonds issued so far. “

The application claimed that electoral bonds worth over Rs 6,500 crore have been sold so far, with most of the donations going to the ruling party.

On January 20 last year, the top court had refused to grant an interim stay on the 2018 electoral bond scheme and sought response from the Center and the Election Commission on an interim application by an NGO seeking a stay on the scheme.

The government had notified the Electoral Bonds Scheme on January 2, 2018.

As per the provisions of the scheme, electoral bonds can be purchased by a person, who is a citizen of India or is incorporated or established in India.

An individual can purchase electoral bonds singly or jointly with other persons.

Only those political parties which are registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and which have not secured at least 1 per cent of the votes cast in the last general election to the Lok Sabha or the Legislative Assembly of the State, are eligible. Huh. Obtain electoral bonds.

As per the notification, Electoral Bonds will be encashed only through a bank account of a bank authorized by an eligible political party.

It said the electoral bond scheme has opened the “flood gates for unlimited corporate donations” to political parties and anonymous funding by Indian and foreign companies, which could have serious implications for Indian democracy.

It said the Election Commission and the Reserve Bank of India had in 2017 “objected electoral bonds and advised against issuance of electoral bonds for making donations to political parties”.

It alleged that almost 99 per cent of the electoral bonds purchased are of denominations of Rs 1 crore and 10 lakh, indicating that it is not individual citizens but large corporations who are buying these bonds to get a kickback from the government.

It had earlier claimed that certain amendments to the Finance Act, 2017 and the earlier Finance Act, 2016, both passed as money bills, have opened doors for unlimited political donations even from foreign companies and thus Legalized electoral corruption on a large scale. Also ensuring complete non-transparency in political donations.

The Election Commission had told the apex court that it has the status of various political parties, including the BJP and the Congress, to file electoral bonds in a sealed cover.

The Election Commission had filed an affidavit in the apex court under the direction dated April 12, 2019 asking the political parties to submit to the Election Commission in a sealed cover all the details of money received through electoral bonds.

The apex court had in April 2019 refused to stay the Centre’s Electoral Bond Scheme 2018 and made it clear that it would hear the petitions in depth as the Center and the Election Commission had “huge issues” with “tremendous impact” on sanctity. “Has picked up. About the electoral process in the country

The Center and the Election Commission had earlier taken opposite stances in court over political funding, the government wanted to maintain the anonymity of the donors of the bonds and the poll panel was battling to disclose the names of the donors for transparency.

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