The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an application that had sought a stay on the sale of Electoral Bonds ahead of the upcoming State Assembly elections in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. A Supreme Court bench comprising of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian refused to stay the release of the fresh set of electoral bonds ahead of the assembly elections in five states.
Hearing a petition filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking an interim direction to bar the sale of Electoral Bonds, CJI Bobde said, “Since the bonds were allowed to be released in 2018 and 2019 without interruption, and sufficient safeguards are there, there is no justification to stay the electoral bonds at present”.
Activist-advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the controversial NGO, had claimed that there was a serious apprehension that any further sale of electoral bonds before the upcoming state elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam, would further increase illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.
The petition had sought that the apex court should not further open the window for the sale of EBs during the pendency of the instant writ petition.
However, the Election Commission of India had opposed the stay on the sale of the bonds. The ECI had submitted that they were not opposed to electoral bonds but want more transparency. Electoral Bonds is one step ahead unaccounted cash system, ECI said. The issue of transparency can be considered at the final argument stage, and there should be no interim stay, the ECI had argued.
The Attorney General had asserted that the bonds ensured that political funding was completely routed through the banking channel, thereby eliminating black money.
Electoral Bonds have been proposed as a way of reforming election funding in the Union Budget 2017. Introduced with the Finance Bill 2017, the Electoral bonds are instruments or securities that can be used to donate funds to political parties.
The Electoral Bonds, which were notified in the year 2018, ensures that the funds being collected by the political parties are accounted for clean money.
Any individual who wishes to donate to a political party can buy these bonds by making payments digitally or through a cheque at the State Bank of India. Then they can gift the bond to any registered political party. The political party can convert these bonds back into money via their bank accounts.