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SC TO HEAR PLEA AGAINST SALE OF ELECTORAL BONDS

Context:

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea to stay the sale of a new set of electoral bonds before Assembly elections in crucial States such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Governance and Government Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What are Electoral Bonds?
  • Need for electoral bonds:
  • Points in the Plea against the Electoral Bonds scheme
  • Government’s response defending the Electoral Bonds scheme

What are Electoral Bonds?

An electoral bond is like a promissory note that can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of State Bank of India.

  • The citizen or corporate can then donate the same to any eligible political party of his/her choice.
  • The bonds are similar to bank notes that are payable to the bearer on demand and are free of interest.
  • An individual or party will be allowed to purchase these bonds digitally or through cheque.
All about Electoral Bonds
Fund political party in Transparent Manner: Electoral Bonds Regime

Need for electoral bonds:

  1. Electoral Bonds limit the use of cash in political funding.
  2. It also reduces using illicit means of funding and the ‘system’ was wholly opaque and ensured complete anonymity.
  3. To curb black money – payments made for the issuance of the electoral bonds are accepted only by means of a demand draft, cheque or through the Electronic Clearing System or direct debit to the buyers’ account”.
  4. Limiting the time for which the bond is valid ensures that the bonds do not become a parallel currency.
  5. Eliminate fraudulent political parties that were formed on pretext of tax evasion, as there is a stringent clause of eligibility for the political parties in the scheme.
  6. Electoral Bonds protect donors from political victimization- as non-disclosure of the identity of the donor is the core objective of the scheme.

Points in the Plea against the Electoral Bonds scheme

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission had both said the sale of electoral bonds had become an avenue for shell corporations and entities to park illicit money and even proceeds of bribes with political parties.
  • Data obtained through RTI has shown that illegal sale windows have been opened in the past to benefit certain political parties. There is a serious apprehension that any further sale of electoral bonds before the upcoming State elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam would further increase illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.
  • The plea said that the Electoral Bonds scheme “opened doors to unlimited political donations, even from foreign companies, thereby legitimising electoral corruption at a huge scale, while at the same time ensuring complete non-transparency in political funding”.
Supreme Court to hear on March 24 plea against sale of electoral bonds

Government’s response defending the Electoral Bonds scheme

  • The Government said that the Electoral Bond Scheme allowed anonymity to political donors to protect them from “political victimisation”. The earlier system of cash donations had raised a “concern among the donors that, with their identity revealed, there would be competitive pressure from different political parties receiving donation”.
  • The Ministry of Finance’s affidavit in the top court had dismissed the Election Commission’s version that the invisibility afforded to benefactors was a “retrogade step” and would wreck transparency in political funding.

-Source: The Hindu

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