The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday, December 4, agreed to hear the plea challenging the implementation of the Electoral Bond Scheme. The plea was filed by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking a stay on the Electoral Bond Scheme notified by the Central government on January 2, 2018. The Supreme Court will be hearing the plea in January 2020. According to reports, a Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice BR Gavai and Justice Surya Kant posted the plea for hearing next month after advocate Prashant Bhushan sought an immediate stay in implementation of Electoral Bonds.
The application seeking a stay of the Electoral Bond Scheme stated, "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 Finance Act of 2017 had introduced the use of electoral bonds which is exempt from disclosure under the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, opening doors to unchecked, unknown funding to political parties. The said amendments have also removed the existing cap of 7.5 per cent of net profit in the last 3 years on campaign donations by companies and have legalised anonymous donations."
The plea further stated that the bonds do not disclose the identity of the donor. "Political parties are not required to disclose the name of the person/entity donating to a party through electoral bonds. Since the bonds are bearer instruments and have to be physically given to the political parties for them to encash, parties will know who is donating to them. It is only the general citizens who will not know who is donating to which party. Thus, electoral bonds increase the anonymity of political donations. The requirement of the donor companies to disclose details in their Profit & Loss account about the name of the political party to which a donation has been made is also removed. Only the total amount of donations to political parties has to be disclosed without naming the political party," it said.
The Electoral Bond Scheme was introduced in 2018 by the Centre. The scheme was like a promissory note where any citizen of India can donate a certain amount of money to any eligible part of his/her choice. Electoral bonds are issued in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000 and Rs 1 crore by select SBI branches through a KYC-compliant account. According to the ADR website, over 12,000 electoral bonds worth Rs 6,128 crore were sold between March 2018 and October 2019.