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Electoral bonds: Supreme Court raps SBI, asks ‘what steps have you taken in last 26 days?’

Mar 11, 2024 12:19 PM IST

Electoral bonds case: Supreme Court directed State Bank of India to disclose details of electoral bonds by close of business hours on March 12.

Electoral bonds case hearing: The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the State Bank of India (SBI) for not complying with its order and not disclosing electoral bond donor details to the Election Commission of India (EC) by March 6. The Supreme Court rejected the SBI's application seeking time till June 30 to disclose the details, giving it time till the business hours of March 12 to furnish them. The apex court also asked the ECI to put the information on its official website by 5pm on March 15.

Supreme Court of India

“In the last 26 days, what steps have you taken? Your application is silent on that,” a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court asked the State Bank of India.

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Commencing the key hearing, the bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said it had asked the SBI to do a “plain disclosure” as per the court's judgment.

“The SBI has to just open the sealed cover, collate details and give information to the Election Commission,” the bench, also comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, said.

The SBI had sought an extension till June 30 to disclose the details of each electoral bond encashed by political parties before the scheme was scrapped.

A separate petition, seeking initiation of contempt action against the SBI was heard.

Electoral bonds case in Supreme Court: Top updates

  • On February 15, a five-judge constitution bench invalidated the Centre's electoral bonds scheme, deeming it "unconstitutional," and mandated the Election Commission of India (ECI) to disclose donor information, donation amounts, and recipients by March 13.
  • Subsequently, the court directed the SBI, the designated financial institution for the scheme, to furnish details of electoral bonds purchased from April 12, 2019, onward to the ECI by March 6.
  • The ECI was then tasked with publishing this information on its official website by March 13.
  • However, on March 4, the SBI filed a petition in the Supreme Court for an extension until June 30 to reveal details of encashed electoral bonds, citing the time-consuming process of retrieving and cross-referencing data from various sources.
  • NGOs Association for Democratic Reforms and Common Cause filed a separate plea, urging the court to initiate contempt proceedings against the bank for allegedly disobeying the apex court's order.
  • The plea contended that the timing of SBI's application was deliberate, aiming to withhold donor and donation amount details from the public before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
  • The plea claimed that electoral bonds are “completely traceable” which is evident from the fact that SBI maintains a secret number-based record of donors who buy bonds and the political parties they donate to. The contempt petition also said any form of anonymity in the finances of political parties goes against the essence of participatory democracy and people's right to know enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  • The petition emphasised that the availability of information regarding electoral bonds is crucial for voters to make informed decisions, underscoring the importance of transparency in the electoral process.

(With inputs from PTI)

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