SC to Rule on Electoral Bond Scheme Tomorrow, Rejects Govt's Plea Not to Interfere Till End of Polls
Arguing for the Centre, Attorney General KK Venugopal said voters don’t need to know where money of political parties come from.
A file photo of the Supreme Court. (PTI)
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will pronounce its verdict on the plea to stay operation of electoral bonds on Friday, rejecting the Centre’s appeal to let them continue till the end of the Lok Sabha elections.
The central government and the Election Commission have taken contrary stands in the Supreme Court over political funding, with the government wanting to maintain anonymity of the donors of electoral bonds and the poll panel batting for revealing the names of donors for transparency.
Attorney General KK Venugopal described the scheme, which the Election Commission has said would hurt transparency in funding of political parties and introduce black money in elections through shell companies, as an “experiment” and asked the Supreme Court to let it continue as it is a policy decision.
He stressed on the fact that electoral bonds were introduced for elimination of black money, but said “it is a fact” that black money plays a part in elections.
“Every illegal method to woo voters is adopted, that is the way of life. Political leaders travelling in helicopters, huge money spent. Where is this money coming from? It is black money,” said the AG.
The AG’s arguments sent the three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India into lengthy discussions twice, but the court did not seemed to be persuaded by them.
CJI Ranjan Gogoi asked Venugopal when a bank issues an electoral bond on application by ‘x’ or ‘y’, does it have details about which bond has been issued to x and which to y, to which the AG replied no.
“If so your entire exercise of trying to fight black money becomes futile,” the CJI remarked.
The AG responded by saying that the State Bank of India has an account of what monies have been received through banking channels, but Justice Sanjiv Khanna, who was also a part of the bench, said KYC is only about the identity of the purchaser, and is not a certificate of genuineness of the money – whether black or white.
To this, Venugopal rebutted that “shell companies will continue even if electoral bonds are not there. However, electoral bonds are not worse off than what is existing. So let it continue for now as an experiment.”
He said that the petitioners contend that “voters have right to know, but voters don’t need to know where money of political parties come from. Also, there is the right to privacy,” he said.
Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners in the case, submitted that the scheme has done nothing to curb black money in political funding as donors remain anonymous. He further claimed that out of the Rs 220 crore worth of electoral bonds purchased so far, Rs 210 crore went to the ruling BJP.
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