One of the initiatives to increase political funding transparency, a programme was announced by the government on January 2, 2018. It was positioned as an alternative to cash contributions given to political parties. Today there is a hearing by the SC.
Hearing in the Supreme Court Today
A critical hearing will be done by the Supreme Court’s five-judge Constitution bench on a number of pleas that contest the legality of the electoral bonds programme used to finance political parties. As part of initiatives to increase political funding transparency, the government announced the programme on January 2, 2018, and it was positioned as an alternative to cash contributions given to political parties.
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What are electoral bonds?
Any Indian citizen or entity incorporated or established in India may purchase electoral bonds in accordance with the scheme’s terms. Purchasing of electoral bonds alone or in a group is possible.
The idea behind these bonds was to give people and the corporations a transparent and lawful way to legally contribute to political parties, as well as lessening the power of black money in politics.
In 2018, the Finance Ministry declared that electoral bonds would function as a bearer of security. When it comes to bearer instruments, the holder of the document is typically taken to be the owner and no ownership information is recorded.
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Pleas submission to the Supreme Court
Four pleas, including those submitted by Congressman Jaya Thakur and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), are set to be heard by a bench that includes Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra.
Attorney General (AG) R Venkataramani stated in a statement submitted to the court ahead of the hearing that citizens are not entitled to information about the source of the funds under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
The top law officer has stated that “general right to know “anything and everything” cannot be there without being subject to reasonable restrictions, citing the electoral bonds scheme as evidence of clean money for funding the political parties.
“Under the aforementioned scheme, the details of the contributor remain confidential. It guarantees and encourages contributions of clean money. It guarantees paying taxes as required. Therefore, it does not violate any already-existing rights,” the AG informed the Supreme Court.
Congress vs BJP
Congress leader P Chidambaram claimed on Monday that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made it clear that it will raise money from large corporations in a “opaque, secretive and conspiratorial manner” as the court is about to begin hearing the case.
Retaliating against Mr. Chidambaram, the BJP said it was sad that the Congress opposed any efforts to guarantee a more open and democratic political funding system.
Views of Centre and Election Commission on this
The apex court denied an interim stay on the 2018 plan on January 20, 2020, and requested the Center and Election Commission’s answers to an interim application that the NGO had filed asking for a stay on the plan.
Electoral bonds can only be obtained by political parties that are registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and that have garnered at least 1% of the votes cast in the most recent election for the Lok Sabha or a state legislative Assembly.
Regarding political funding, the Election Commission and the Center had previously taken opposing positions in court, with the Election Panel pushing for disclosure of the donors’ identities while the government wanted to preserve their anonymity.