[dropcap]E[/dropcap]LECTORAL bonds worth a total of Rs 6128 crore were sold between March 2018 to October 2019, with more than half that amount – a whopping Rs 3622 crore – sold just ahead of the May 2019 general elections, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has said in its latest report.
A total of Rs 1366 crore worth of electoral bonds were sold in March 2019, rising to Rs 2256 crore in April in the run-up to the elections in May 2019, the ADR said in its report released on November 1, 2019.
— ADR India (@adrspeaks) November 1, 2019
Demographically, the highest number of electoral bonds worth Rs 1880 crore were sold in Mumbai, followed by Rs 1440 crore in Kolkata, Rs 919 crore in New Delhi and Rs 383 crore in Hyderabad.
— ADR India (@adrspeaks) November 2, 2019
ADR has also filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the controversial electoral bond scheme, and the same is pending before the court since March 2019.
EC’s criticism; challenge to the scheme
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has sharply criticised the introduction of the electoral bonds scheme. In a three-page letter written to the Ministry of Law and Justice, it opposed the view of the Central Government that the introduction of the electoral bonds would make the process of political funding and donation transparent.
A public interest petition filed by Association of Democratic Reforms, Common Cause and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) challenging the scheme is pending before the Supreme Court.
The petitions have raised two key issues:
- Does the current electoral bond scheme facilitate unaccounted anonymous political donations by corporations?
- Can such a scheme be introduced through the Finance Act, as this bypasses scrutiny by the RajyaSabha?
The controversial scheme was introduced through the Finance Act, 2016 and Finance Act, 2017 which amended four legislations – Representation of the People Act, 1951; Income Tax Act, 1961; Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010; and Companies Act, 2013.
Defending the current electoral bond scheme, the government claimed that it would promote transparency in political donations as it required all donations to be made through a verified KYC account.
On April 12, a three-judge bench comprising of the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna refused to stay the operation of the scheme. However, as an interim measure, it directed all political parties to provide the ECI in a sealed envelope, details of donors who contributed through electoral bonds as well as the amount received from them until May 15. This information was to have to been furnished to the ECI latest by May 31, 2019.
What is an electoral bond?
An electoral bond is like a Promissory Note, similar to a banknote, that is payable to the bearer on demand and free of interest. It can be purchased by any Indian citizen or a body corporate in India.
An electoral bond may be issued in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh and Rs 1 crore and are available at specified branches of the State Bank of India. A donor can purchase an electoral bond with a KYC-compliant account and can donate the bonds to their party of choice, which can then be cashed through the party’s verified account within 15 days.
Any political party that is registered under Section 29 A of the Representation of People Act, 1951, and has secured not less than 1 per cent of the votes polled in the last elections to the Lok Sabha or legislative assembly will be eligible to receive electoral bonds.