NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition filed by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking to halt the sale of electoral bonds just ahead of polls in four states and a Union Territory, saying the scheme was in place since 2018 and that there were enough safeguards to prevent its misuse.
“In light of the scheme introduced in 2018 and that they have been released in 2018, 2019 and 2020 without impediment, we don’t see any reason to stay the issuance at this stage,” the bench headed by CJI SA Bobde said. It added that fresh bonds can be issued from 1 April. “Certain safeguards have already been provided by this court in its interim order dated April 12, 2019,” said the bench.
The ADR in its plea expressed apprehension that further sale of bonds before the upcoming elections would further increase “illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies”. Dismissing the contention regarding lack of transparency, the bench said there may not be complete anonymity in financing of political parties by corporate houses.
“If the purchase of bonds as well as their encashment could happen only through banking channels and if purchase of bonds are allowed only to customers who fulfill KYC (Know Your Customer) norms, the information about the purchaser will certainly be available with SBI, which alone is authorised to issue and encash the bonds,” the bench said. “Moreover, any expenditure incurred by anyone in purchasing the bonds through banking channels will have to be accounted as expenditure in his books of accounts,” it added.The bench rejected the contention that RBI was opposed to the scheme, saying it was concerned with the issue of bonds in scrip form rather than in demat form.
‘No evidence of impact on polls’
The NGO had claimed that the sale of electoral bonds before the Assembly elections would “increase illicit funding of political parties through shell companies”. Dismissing the plea, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said there is no evidence that electoral bonds would adversely impact elections. The SC said fresh electoral bonds can be issued from April 1
Transactions via banking channels
■ “The purchase as well as encashment of the bonds, happening only through banking channels, is always reflected in documents that eventually come to the public domain,” the order stated
■ Donors can buy e-bonds from SBI and donate to political parties, which can encash them through their accounts within 15 days