The petitions seeking a stay on the electoral bonds scheme — filed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) — were heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for ADR, said that the scheme is a means for channelising unaccounted black money in favour of the ruing party, according to PTI.
The ADR, while filing an application in the top court in November, had cited HuffPost India’s series #PaisaPolitics on electoral bonds by Nitin Sethi, published in November last year. ADR also argued that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) received 95% of the total electoral bonds, and therefore funding, declared by all political parties for the financial year 2017-18.
According to an analysis released last week, ADR said the BJP raised Rs 2,410 crore during 2018-19, of which Rs 1,450 crore came as donations through electoral bonds.
“The BJP received donations through electoral bonds worth Rs 1,450.89 crore, the Congress Rs 383.26 crore and TMC Rs 97.28 crore,” it said.
CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury had said that the electoral bonds scheme is “distorting Indian democracy”. Talking to HuffPost India’s Akshay Deshmane in November, Yechury had said, “I was there in Parliament when this (electoral bonds scheme) was smuggled through the Finance Bill and I remember listing out all these apprehensions which are now coming out to be true with your stories, with your exposures.”
The apprehensions, he had noted, were — first that the electoral bonds scheme is legalising political corruption and second, it is “completely unaccountable” because except for the banks and the government, nobody knows who purchased the bonds.
Sethi’s series, which was based on documents accessed by transparency activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd), revealed how the Narendra Modi government overruled the objections of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission. It also detailed how the government’s claim that bond donors are completely anonymous was a lie. SBI maintains a secret number-based record of donors who buy electoral bonds, and the political parties they donate to.
The HuffPost India series established that the government lied that donors requested anonymity due to fear of political retribution. While BJP members have often repeated that donors asked for anonymity, the finance ministry admitted that no donor ever told the government to create an opaque system of funding political parties.
Meanwhile, the Central Information Commission (CIC) asked the government this month to reveal the names of those who requested that donors buying electoral bonds remain anonymous.
(With PTI inputs)