The Supreme Court had directed all the political parties to disclose the details of the donations received by them through electoral bonds to the Election Commission of India. The disclosure of the particulars had to be made sealed in covers and the same has to be furnished by the 30th May 2019. The particulars are to be furnished pertaining to all the donations received by the parties till date and shall include the details of donors, bank accounts and other relevant particulars.
The order passed by the Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta and Sanjay Khanna in a petition filed by the Association of Domestic Reforms.
Electoral Bonds was introduced through the Finance Act, 2017 by way of amendments to the three statutes – Income Tax Act, RBI Act, and Representation of People Act. The petition has assailed through five major amendments which were brought through Finance Act, 2017 and Finance Act, 2016.
- Section 31, The Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 through part III, Section 135 of The Finance Act, 2017
- Section 29C, The Representation of The People Act, 1951 through part IV, Section 137 of the Finance Act, 2017
- Section 13A, The Income Tax Act, 1961 through chapter III, Section 11 of The Finance Act, 2017 and in,
- Section 182 of The Companies Act, 2013 through part XII, Section 154, The Finance Act, 2017.
- Section 2 of The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) through Finance Act, 2016.
The petitioners had also challenged the amendments to Section 182 of The Companies Act which was earlier provided for a cap of donations made by the companies to the political parties. Appearing for the petitioners, Prashant Bhushan submitted before the court of law than an electoral bond is like a promissory note wherein the donor’s name is not on the instrument.
The donor, who is the purchaser of the bond, remains anonymous and their details are not obligated to be disclosed to the Election Commission or Income Tax Authorities. The court to grant an interim stay on the sale of anonymous electoral bonds until such time as the court decides on the constitutionally of the scheme as a whole.
The Election Commission of India, represented by the Senior Counsel Rakesh Dwivedi told the court that it was not opposed to the scheme of electoral bonds as such, it was against the anonymity. The Electoral Commission, in its affidavit before the court, had also stated that it had expressed its concerns over the scheme to the Centre before the passage of the Bill that introduced the scheme. It was also stated by the Election Commission that the body feared that foreign funding coming into Indian Political Discourse could lead to the influence of Foreign Companies on Indian Policies.
The Centre’s stand was the scheme aimed at curtailing inflow of black money into indian politics. Attorney General for India KK Venugopal stressed that the government had placed checks and balances to ensure that the system also maintained the Right to Privacy of the bond purchaser. The non-disclosure of the identity of the bond purchaser was important because if the political party which a person did not provide funds to came to power, the person could be victimised.