scorecardWe're still very long way off in cleaning up electoral funding system: Former CEC
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We're still very long way off in cleaning up electoral funding system: Former CEC

We're still very long way off in cleaning up electoral funding system: Former CEC
IndiaIndia3 min read
New Delhi, The Supreme Court verdict striking down the electoral bonds scheme is a "great boon for democracy", former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi said on Thursday. N Gopalaswami, who was the chief election commissioner from June 2006 to April 2009, said, "We are still very long way off in cleaning up the electoral funding system."

A five-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said the electoral bonds scheme violates the right to information and the freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution.

The top court directed that the SBI must disclose details of each electoral bond encashed by the political parties. The information should include the date of encashment and the denomination of the bonds and be submitted to the poll panel by March 6.

The Election Commission should publish the information shared by SBI on its official website by March 13, the bench said.

"One system goes, another system comes. It will be back to cash which was more prevalent earlier," Gopalaswami told PTI.

He said, "We are still very long way off in cleaning up the electoral funding system".

Quraishi, who headed the poll authority between June 2010 and June 2012, said the SC verdict will "restore people's faith in democracy".

"This is the greatest thing that could have happened. This is the most historic judgment that we have got from the Supreme Court in the last five-seven years. It is a great boon for democracy," Quraishi told PTI Videos.

"We were all concerned for the last so many years. Everyone who loves democracy was protesting about it. I myself wrote several articles and spoke to the media many times. And every issue that we raised has been tackled in the judgment," he said.

The former CEC also put out a post on X hailing the Supreme Court for the verdict.

"Electoral Bonds declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Three cheers for the SC!"

Another former CEC Sunil Arora said the persistent stand of the Election Commission has been that the system should be "more transparent".

The scheme, which was notified by the government on January 2, 2018, was pitched as an alternative to cash donations made to the political parties as part of efforts to bring transparency in political funding.

Quraishi said making sure that the donations happen through the banking system was fine but "our contention was why should a donation given to a political party be kept a secret?"

"The donor wants secrecy but public wants transparency. Now why should the donor want secrecy? Because they want to hide the quid pro quo, the benefits they are getting in return, the licence, the contracts and even the bank loans with which they run away to the foreign lands. Is that why they they wanted secrecy?

"And the government was trying to uphold the secrecy of donors... the same donors who have been donating for these 70 years. Suddenly there were in the need of secrecy. So that has now been done away with. I think it will make our democracy healthy once again," he said.

This is the best thing that could have happened to India's democracy, he asserted.

"The fact that the court has ordered that all the donations received in the last two-three years will be refunded and they will be disclosed to the nation... will help us know whether there had been any quid pro quo and whether there had been any donor who has been subjected to all kind of questionable pressures. A lot of things will come out from this judgment. In one word, it is a 'historic' judgement," Quraishi said.

Asked how it will affect the upcoming general elections, he said it will have impact "substantially but not entirely".

"Because, in any case, political parties have been funded in the past. They will continue to be funded in the future. But this opaque method of funding has been removed and that is the best part of it," he said.

He said what he always demanded was transparency.

"Let people donate to the political parties. They have been donating for 70 years (but) there was no problem. There was no reprisal even if you donated to the opposition parties. Nobody has taken any vindictive action.

"Corporates have been donating to all parties contesting in the same elections. (In) the system that was working right for 70 years, the only thing there was that 60-70 per cent of donation was supposed to be in cash which was something to be worried about," Quraishi said.

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