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SC strikes down electoral bond scheme, terms it unconstitutional

SC strikes down electoral bond scheme, terms it unconstitutional
New Delhi, The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the electoral bond scheme, saying it violates the right to information and the freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution. In a landmark judgement that will have wide ramifications, it ordered the State Bank of India to disclose to the Election Commission the names of the contributors to the six-year-old scheme.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud delivered two separate and unanimous verdicts on the pleas challenging the scheme, delivering a major blow to the central government.

Pronouncing the verdict, the CJI said the scheme is violative of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of Constitution.

The bench said the fundamental right to privacy also includes citizens' right to political privacy and affiliation.

It also held as invalid the amendments made in various laws, including the Representation of Peoples Act and the Income Tax laws.

It directed that the issuing bank shall stop issuance of electoral bonds and the State Bank of India shall submit details of electoral bonds purchased since April 12, 2019 till date to the Election Commission.

The top court had on November 2 last year reserved its verdict in the matter.

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

According to the provisions of the scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by any citizen of India or entity incorporated or established in the country.

An individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals without disclosing the identity.

Critics have said this eliminates transparency in electoral funding and gives an edge to the ruling parties.

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