New Delhi, October 28: The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has moved an application in the Supreme Court demanding urgent listing of public interest litigation (PIL) pending on the issue of electoral bonds.
The application on Monday has sought listing of its PIL pending with the Supreme Court since September 2017. The matter was last heard on January 20 this year and has not come up for hearing since then.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who has filed the plea for ADR informed the Court that just before the Bihar Assembly elections, the State Bank of India has been authorized to issue and encash Electoral Bonds through its 29 authorized branches between October 19 and 28, the Hindustan Times reported.
The application said, “Even though a notification, dated January 2, 2018 stipulates sale of electoral bonds in January, April, July and October months of each year; the window was not opened in April and July, but has been opened in October, right before the Bihar legislative election.”
The ADR in its PIL had sought that the amendments carried out to the Finance Act that were passed as Money Bills which provided an anonymous route for political parties to receive corporate funding through electoral bonds be struck down. This lack of transparency in the accounts of all political parties was cited as the ground by ADR to oppose this scheme. These donations enjoy 100 per cent tax exemption as they need not be reported to the Income Tax Department either, the petition added.
“The Electoral Bonds Scheme has opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which can have serious repercussions on the Indian democracy,” the application stated, adding that the Finance Act of 2017 exempts use of electoral bonds from disclosure under the Representation of Peoples Act.
The ADR moved applications in March 2019 and again in November 2019 to stay the implementation of the Electoral Bond Scheme but the same was not granted. In April 2019, an interim order was issued by the Supreme Court asking political parties to disclose to the Election Commission in a sealed cover details of donations received by way of electoral bonds.
In the same order, the top court had observed that the issue with regard to electoral bonds gives rise to “weighty issues which have a tremendous bearing on the sanctity of the electoral process in the country” which require an in-depth hearing.