India's political parties have to tell the Election Commission who they received donations from before a final order on electoral bonds


  • The Supreme Court has decided to let the electoral bonds scheme continue.
  • However, the three-judge bench , led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, did bat for greater transparency.
  • The apex court has ordered India’s political parties to submit the details of the funds that they have received under the scheme to the Election Commission by May 15th.
The great experiment isn’t over yet. A year after the central government initiated the electoral bond scheme with gusto, the Supreme Court has decided against ruling over the legality of the scheme for the time being, choosing instead to let it continue.

However, the three-judge bench , led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, did bat for greater transparency, ordering India’s political parties to submit the details of the funds that they have received under the scheme until mid-May 2019 to the Election Commission by May 30th, according to Bar and Bench.

Furthermore, as per the interim order, electoral bonds can only be issued for 10 day periods in January, April, July & October. All other dates in April and May have been removed, according to CNBC.

The apex court had been hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) against electoral bonds since the beginning of April, which called for greater transparency and disclosures in the political funding process.

The PIL was filed by Prashant Bhushan, a senior advocate, on behalf of the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), an NGO, that challenged the electoral bonds scheme.

Even India’s Electoral Commission (EC) has been petitioning the Supreme Court against the legality of electoral bonds.

The arguments against the scheme focused on two key ways that it can be misused.

First, under the guise of anonymity, politicians and companies with black money can route the cash back into their political party through newly-incorporated companies that have no other business to speak of.

Secondly, the scheme’s provisions that allow foreign funding and unlimited donations from corporations.Hence, bribes and kickbacks can be easily channeled to a political party through the purchase of bonds. If a company wants to pay a political party for securing a contract, it can make the payment legally through an electoral bond donation.

An opposing view

It’s worth noting that the Central government has taken an opposing stand by emphasising the donor’s right to secrecy. It had even questioned the court over why India’s electorate should know the source of the parties' funding.

By most accounts, it seems that the BJP has received the most money from the scheme.

In fact, in the first tranche of bond sales in March 2018, as much as 95% of the donations - totalling ₹2.1 billion - made through electoral bonds went to the ruling party.

When the electoral bonds scheme was first implemented in January 2018, the anonymous aspect was touted as one of its primary benefits. Prior to this, all cash donations above ₹20,000 had to be disclosed - a rule political parties circumvented by received donations of ₹19,999 or less, according to ADR.

In an article accompanying the scheme’s launch, Arun Jaitley, India’s Finance Minister, said that electoral bonds would ensure transparency and prevent forced donations as the identity of the donor would not be known to the political party.


SEE ALSO:

India's Supreme Court will decide on the fate of electoral bonds tomorrow

There are two ways in which India's electoral bonds can be misused
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