The Supreme Court had refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds.
Election Commission of India (ECI) data shows that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) received more than 75% of the electoral bonds sold in 2019-20.
It received bonds worth Rs 1,450 crore in the previous year. Of the Rs 3,435 crore worth of electoral bonds sold in 2019-20, BJP got the bulk of bonds, Rs 2,555 crore precisely.
The second-highest recipient was the Indian National Congress (INC), which received bonds worth Rs 318 crore in 2019-20, down from Rs 383 crore it received in the previous year. Other parties which received donations through the bonds are:
- Mamta Banerjee‘s Trinamool Congress (Rs 100 crore).
- Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (₹45 crores).
- Sharad Pawar‘s Nationalist Congress Party (Rs 29 crore).
- Arvind Kejriwal‘s Aam Aadmi Party (Rs 18 crore) and Lalu Prasad Yadav‘s Rashtriya Janata Dal (Rs 2.5 crore).
BJP’s share of voluntary contributions through the electoral bonds route has gone up from 21% in 2017-18 to 74% in 2019-20.
Even for INC, the donation it received via the bonds is 68% of the total voluntary contributions of Rs 469 crore it acquired in 2019-20
What are Electoral Bonds?
Announced in the 2017 Budget and launched for the first time in 2018, Electoral Bonds allow political parties to receive donations from donors securely via bank transactions and anonymously. It doesn’t reveal the donor’s identity.
However, the donor has to fill in the KYC documents of the designated bank (SBI) before donating.
They are sold for the first ten days of each year’s quarter (January, April, July and October). Moreover, these bonds can be donated only to a political party registered under the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 and which has not less than 1% of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha elections.
Because of the anonymity, they offer to donors, in just three years of their introduction, electoral bonds have surpassed all other routes of political funding for almost all major political parties.
Benefits of Electoral Bonds
As the transactions happen securely via the designated bank (SBI) and after the donor has provided all the KYC details, these electoral bonds have considerably helped reduce the influence of cash and black money in elections.
It helps to improve transparency in political funding as the donor has submitted the KYC details and the transaction happens through the bank; the money spent will reflect in the company’s balance sheets.
Additionally, it also gives confidentiality to the donor as now they can contribute to any political party without disclosing his identity to any political party, thereby ensuring that he doesn’t face intimidation from any party.
Issues with Electoral Bonds
Even though it increases transparency in political funding, the anonymity it offers to the donors also means that the voters will not know which individual, corporate house or organisation has funded which political party and to what extent.
Moreover, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has argued in the SC that electoral bonds provide no details to the citizens regarding who donated to which political party.
Moreover, the said anonymity does not apply to the government in power, as it can always access the donor’s details by demanding the data from the SBI.
This, in essence, means that the only people in the dark about the source of these donations are the voters and citizens.
Also, the printing of these bonds and the commission that SBI gets for facilitating the sale and purchase of these bonds are paid by the central government using taxpayers’ money.
Supreme Court Ruling
A petition was filed in the Supreme Court (SC) by ADR to stop the sale of electoral bonds before the recently concluded Assembly Elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Pondicherry.
However, the SC refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds. The judgement given by a bench led by the then Chief Justice of India Sharad Borde said the court didn’t find any reason to stall the sale of electoral bonds now.
image source – thehindu.com
However, the SC flagged its concerns regarding how the money received by political parties through the electoral bonds could be misused to instigate violent protests or even terror.
Therefore, the bench asked the government its plan to control how political parties use these donations.