Assessing Electoral Bonds: Supreme Court Verdict Awaited

Attention India
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The electoral bonds scheme, introduced by the government in 2018, was designed to facilitate discreet financial contributions to political parties. It aimed to replace cash donations and enhance transparency in political funding. These bonds allow individuals and businesses to donate funds without revealing their identities, thereby ensuring confidentiality in political contributions.

Legal Challenge: Petitions Questioning Validity

A set of petitions challenging the validity of the electoral bonds scheme reached the Supreme Court, prompting a thorough examination of its constitutionality. The petitioners argue that the scheme undermines citizens’ right to be informed about the sources of political party funding, a fundamental right enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioners, labelled the scheme as “opaque” and “anonymous,” alleging that it promotes corruption.

Defending the Scheme: Arguments in Favor

The government, represented by Attorney General R Venkataramani, defended the electoral bonds scheme, asserting that it promotes transparency and clean money in elections. He contended that Article 19(1)(a) does not guarantee citizens an absolute right to information regarding the source of political party funding. Venkataramani emphasized the scheme’s role in ensuring confidentiality for contributors, promoting clean contributions, and facilitating compliance with tax obligations.

Criteria for Participation and Encashment

Under the electoral bonds scheme, only political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and those securing not less than 1% of the votes in the last Lok Sabha or state legislative assembly elections are eligible to receive electoral bonds.

Legal Proceedings and Supreme Court’s Role

The legal journey of the electoral bonds scheme saw several twists and turns. In April 2019, the Supreme Court declined to stay the scheme, citing the need for comprehensive hearings due to the “weighty issues” raised by both the Centre and the Election Commission. The current Constitution bench, comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, commenced hearings on October 31, 2023. Notable petitioners include Congress leader Jaya Thakur, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Awaited Verdict: Implications and Expectations

Today, the Supreme Court is set to deliver its verdict on the electoral bonds scheme, resolving the contentious legal battle surrounding its validity. The decision holds significant implications for political funding regulations, transparency norms, and the protection of fundamental rights. As stakeholders anxiously await the court’s ruling, the outcome will shape the future landscape of electoral finance and governance in India.

-Prisha Jaiswal

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