SC declines stay on the sale of Electoral Bonds ahead of assembly polls

THE Supreme Court Friday refused to stay a further opening of the window for the sale of electoral bonds ahead of the scheduled state elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Assam.

A bench led by CJI SA Bobde passed this order while dismissing an interim application filed by the NGO ‘Association For Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking to stay further opening of the window for the sale of electoral bonds.

The bench said  “the  Scheme was introduced on 2.1.2018; that the bonds are released at periodical intervals in January, April, July and October of every year; that they had been so released in the years 2018, 2019 and   2020 without any impediment; and that certain safeguards have already been provided by this Court in its interim order dated 12.4.2019, we do not see any justification for the grant of stay at this stage. Hence both the applications for stay are dismissed”.

It added that there could not be repeated applications seeking the same relief, merely because the interim reliefs sought, relates to something that is to happen at periodical intervals of time.

“Once this Court has passed an Order on 12.4.2019 directing some interim arrangement, thereafter applications for the same interim relief cannot be made, every time the window for the purchase under the Scheme is opened”, the Court said.

In April 2019, the top court, in an interim order, passed an order directing that all political parties give details of donors who contributed through electoral bonds as well as the amount received from them to the Election Commission of India (ECI) in a sealed envelope.

Referring to the argument of the petitioner that foreign corporate houses may buy the bonds and attempt to influence the electoral process, the Court said this argument was misconceived. It cited Clause 3 of the Scheme which provided that Bonda may be purchased only by a person, who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.

Appearing for the NGO ‘Association For Democratic Reforms (ADR), advocate Prashant Bhushan submitted that the sale of an electoral bond would further increase the illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.

Bhushan added that the Election Commission (EC) on 25.05.2018 and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) vide letters on 31.01.2017, 14.09.2017, 27.09.2017 had objected to electoral bonds and had advised against issuing them as a mode for donation to political parties.

An electoral bond, Bhushan argued, is like cash to a political party for a quid pro quo. Bhushan contended that electoral bonds were anonymous to others but not to the government which would know who the donor was as the State Bank of India (SBI) came under the purview of the Centre. Therefore, he argued that if the government wished to victimise a donor for donating to opponent parties, it could do so as it would know the identity of the donor.

Read the Order