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SC To Hear Pleas Challenging Electoral Bonds Scheme On April 2

Live Law News Network
26 March 2019 2:14 PM GMT
SC To Hear Pleas Challenging Electoral Bonds Scheme On April 2
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The Supreme Court today adjourned the hearing of a batch of petitions challenging the scheme of electoral bonds for April 2.CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that the court will not be able to hear the case today and ordered the listing of cases before an appropriate bench on April 2. The CJI indicated that the matter will be listed before another bench as the CJI is sitting in constitution bench...

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The Supreme Court today adjourned the hearing of a batch of petitions challenging the scheme of electoral bonds for April 2.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that the court will not be able to hear the case today and ordered the listing of cases before an appropriate bench on April 2. The CJI indicated that the matter will be listed before another bench as the CJI is sitting in constitution bench from tomorrow. The application seeking stay on the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018 will be also be considered on that day, the CJI said. 

The petitions have been filed by political party Communist Party of India(Marxist), and NGOs Common Cause and Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR),which challenge the scheme as "an obscure funding system which is unchecked by any authority"

ADR has filed a stay application stating that 95% of the electoral bonds sold so far have been in favour of one political party, that is the current ruling party.  It also stated that most of the bonds that have been purchased since 2018 have been of the denominations of 10 lakh and 1 crores, indicating that it is not common citizens but corporates that have been purchasing these bonds while enjoying complete anonymity accorded by the  scheme.

It sought immediate stay of the scheme, stating that these electoral bonds are being made available for a large number of days in three months leading to general elections solely to benefit big corporate donors. The scheme grants complete anonymity to corporate funding of political parties through electoral bonds, and this will lead to corporate funders lobbying to influence policy decisions, said the stay application.

Electoral bonds were introduced by amendments made through the Finance Act 2017 to the Reserve Bank of India Act 1934, Representation of Peoples Act 1951, Income Tax Act 1961 and Companies Act. On January 2, 2018, the Centre notified the scheme for electoral bonds, which are in the nature of bearer instruments like a Promissory Note capable of being purchased by an Indian citizen or a body incorporated in India. The bonds can be purchased from an authorized bank, and can be issued to a political party. The party can encash the bond within 15 days. The identity of the donor will be known only to the bank, which will be kept anonymous

The amendments made to Companies Act 2013 exclude the requirement of disclosure of names of political parties to whom contributions have been made. The petitioners voiced the apprehension that this will lead to "private corporate interests taking precedence over the needs and rights of the people of the State in policy considerations"

The petitioners further alleged that the scheme could not have been brought in through amendments made by Finance Act 2017, which was introduced and passed as a "money bill". According to the petitioners, the amendments were disguised as money bill to bypass the upper house.

Two weeks ago, the centre had filed counter-affidavit stating that the electoral bond schemes will bring in more transparency in political funding. The anonymity of the scheme was intended to protect the privacy of the donor, stated the centre. 


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