Govt announces new set of electoral bonds as Supreme Court examines plea on their stay
The Centre has issued yet another tranche of electoral bonds despite an application demanding a stay on the scheme pending before the Supreme Court. The notification released on Thursday authorises 29 branches of State Bank of India (SBI) to issue and encash the bonds from January 13 to January 22.
The apex court is expected to hear this month a plea filed by non-profit organization Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) to put the controversial scheme on hold on the ground that Rs 6,000 crore collected so far is being “misused by the party in power” and that the donor’s identity is kept anonymous, making it akin for accepting bribe, money laundering and channelisation of black money. ADR has contended the scheme had been red-flagged by the banking regulator, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and also the Election Commission of India (ECI).
As per Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) audit report, uploaded on Election Commission’s website on Thursday, the ruling party at got 60 per cent of Rs 2,410 crore raised before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections through electoral bonds. The amount comes to around Rs 1,450 crore. In 2017-18, the BJP had declared to have generated Rs 210 crore of the Rs 222 crore worth bonds issued in March 2018.
Fourty per cent - Rs 383 crore - of Rs 918 crore raised during the same period by Congress was through the bonds. Congress has strongly opposed the bonds owing to the anonymity of the donor. Between March 2018 and May 2019, bonds worth Rs 5,000 crore were issued.
The audit report of Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in West Bengal, shows it had raised Rs 192 crore in 2018-19, of which it received Rs 97 crore through the bonds.
ADR had in April last year moved the top court against receiving donations through electoral bonds. In an interim order of April 12, 2019, the court had directed all political parties that received donations through the bonds upto May 15, 2019 to submit the details with ECI in a sealed cover by May 30, 2019. As per ECI’s response to an RTI query filed in November last year, 74 of the 93 parties, including Congress and BJP, submitted the required details after the stipulated deadline.
The Centre and the ECI have taken contrary stands before the top court. ECI has batted for revealing the names of the donors for transparency, while the government wants to maintain anonymity. ECI has, however, not commented on the merits of the scheme and said it had raised concern about the anonymity issue with the government in 2017 itself.