New Delhi: It has become the central government versus the Election Commission on the issue of the electoral bond.
In its fresh affidavit, the government has termed as “without legal or factual merit” the objections raised by the EC over electoral bonds being the prime source of donations to political parties.
While the EC in its affidavit had raised red flags over the “anonymous” funding through electoral bonds and also apprehended that foreign companies could impact India’s policies by way of indirect donations, the Centre has brushed aside these concerns on the ground that electoral bonds will only further transparency in these matters.
Countering the EC’s views, the affidavit, filed by the Finance Ministry, points out that “electoral bonds attempt at bringing in greater transparency, ensuring KYC (know your consumer) compliance and keeping an audit trail, in comparison to the earlier opaque system of cash donations”.
“Accordingly, the concern of the Election Commission of India that electoral bonds will enable foreign companies influence Indian policies is without any legal or factual merit,” asserted the government.
It maintained that the identities of donors are to be kept confidential to ward off any political victimisation but, at the same time, donations are allowed only after KYC norms are complied with by them and that their identities can be revealed on the orders of a court or by enforcement agencies in appropriate cases.
“The amount received under the bonds can be credited only to a single registered bank account belonging to a political party. In other words, a political party must now disclose the receipt of this money and must account for the same. It is also obliged to declare the total amount of money it has received in the electoral bonds,” stated the affidavit.
The government emphasised that the introduction of electoral bond is a marked shift from the old electoral system where huge cash donations anonymously went on to create a parallel economy through unaccounted cash and black money and that some political parties were floated as vehicles to handle and deal with black money.
“In these circumstances and considering the need to impart greater accountability in funding of political parties as well as to maintain anonymity of the donor, a mechanism of political funding by way of electoral bond was introduced," said the government, adding the that EC was also kept in loop regarding the process of devising electoral bond.
“Contrary to the concerns raised by the EC, the amendments in the respective legislatures have been made and the electoral bond scheme has been introduced as a pioneer step in bringing electoral reforms to ensure that spirit of transparency and accountability in political funding is maintained,” concluded the affidavit.
The Supreme Court will soon take up a bunch of petitions that have sought a stay on operation of the electoral bond until its validity is finally decided by the court. The petitions have contended that electoral bonds will perpetuate corruption and will lead to anonymous donations.