29/11/2019 6:55 PM IST

Electoral Bonds: ADR Asks For Stay On Scheme, Citing ‘HuffPost India’ Series

The Association for Democratic Reforms filed an application in the Supreme Court, citing documents acquired by multiple RTI activists including Lokesh Batra.

New Delhi: The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) filed an application in the Supreme Court on Friday, seeking a stay on the controversial electoral bonds scheme, citing the revelations made by HuffPost India in #PaisaPolitics, a series of investigative reports published last week.

Quoting from documents acquired by multiple RTI activists, the application cited all the problematic aspects about the scheme, reported in the six-part series by journalist Nitin Sethi, to make its case for a stay. 

The six aspects are the following: 

1) The Reserve Bank of India repeatedly opposed the scheme and amendment made to the RBI Act through the Finance Bill 2017.

2) The Election Commission objected to the amendments in Finance Act 2017.

3) PMO ordered the illegal sale of electoral bonds just before state polls in violation of the scheme.

4) Government can get access to source of donations but not the public and opposition parties.

5) Government made the State Bank of India accept expired electoral bonds sold in illegal window.

6) Government lied that donors asked for secrecy.

It also cited three additional reasons to argue that the controversial scheme should be stayed. They include: the fact that the BJP received 95% of the total electoral bonds, and therefore funding, declared by all political parties for the financial year 2017-18; the law ministry’s objection to the Finance Ministry’s stipulation about who is eligible to receive funding as per the scheme (based on an RTI filed by activist Anjali Bhardwaj) and findings from a report prepared by ADR to make its case for scrapping the Electoral Bonds scheme, 2018. 

This is the most recent legal intervention made by the ADR into its ongoing efforts to get the controversial scheme scrapped. In 2017, it filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the scheme. An interim order in early 2018 put some curbs on the scheme but a final decision in the matter is still pending from the Apex court. 

One of the key consequences of the electoral bonds scheme, the application argues, is that it has “opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which can have serious repercussions on the Indian democracy”.

Thus, this application provides a fresh window to revive the pending legal challenge to the controversial scheme. 

In a recent interview, Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary and former Rajya Sabha MP Sitaram Yechury also stated that he found enough grounds after the disclosures by HuffPost India to file an application to seek a stay on the electoral bonds scheme. If that happens, it would provide further momentum to the legal cases.