By LE Desk

New Delhi, March 24: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its order on a plea of a non-governmental organisation seeking a stay on the sale of fresh electoral bonds ahead of state assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and the union territory of Puducherry.

The three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, however, expressed concerns over the possible misuse of these bonds and asked the Centre to examine it.

“If a political party gets ₹100 crore worth bonds what is the control over the use of these bonds for illegal activities or purposes outside political agenda?” the bench posed a question, the Hindustan Times reported.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, representing the Centre, said that after the electoral bonds scheme was launched in 2018, black money in election funding has been kept under check as no cash is collected. Bonds can be purchased only through cheque or DD, he said.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, who represented the Election Commission, said that the EC is not opposed to these bonds but raised concerns over its anonymity.

The petition has been filed by Association For Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking to stop fresh sale of electoral bonds from April 1 till the top court decides on their validity.

The NGO sought an urgent hearing stating that the sale of fresh electoral bonds should be stopped till the top court decides the three pending petitions challenging the electoral bond scheme 2018 which grants anonymity to donors of political parties.

An electoral bond is an instrument in the nature of a promissory note or bearer bond which can be purchased by any individual, company, firm or association of persons provided the person or body is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India. The bonds are issued specifically for the purpose of contributing funds to political parties.

In its PIL, the ADR had sought that the amendments carried out to the Finance Act 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% tax exemption as they need not be reported to the Income Tax department either, the petition added.

The electoral bond scheme was notified by the central government on January 2, 2018.

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