The Hindu

State Bank of India has moved the Supreme Court seeking time till June 30 to comply with a direction to make public details of electoral bonds purchased since April 2019

As the State Bank of India moved the Supreme Court seeking time till June 30 to comply with a direction to make public details of electoral bonds purchased since April 2019, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), chief petitioner in the electoral bonds case, said it was considering all legal options, including opposing the SBI plea in court.

Prof. Jagdeep Chhokar, founder-member and trustee of the ADR, termed the SBI move “not surprising but unfortunate”.

“…the data is obviously in digital format and collecting data from different States and locations and taking four months for that is impossible in this day and age,” he told The Hindu.

Prof. Trilochan Shastry, ADR Chairman, said: “We are considering all options, including challenging the SBI plea in court”.

RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj, who is a member of the board of Common Cause, which is one of the petitioners, said: “Donor names and redemption details of electoral bonds are both available in SBI’s Mumbai Branch in sealed cover as per their affidavit. Why is SBI not disclosing these immediately?”

“Claim that it needs four months to match purchaser and redeemer info for 22,217 bonds is ridiculous!” she posted on X.

The SBI on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking time till June 30 to comply with a direction from the Supreme Court to make public details of electoral bonds purchased since April 2019. The extension of time sought by the SBI would ensure that details about the electoral bonds are made public after the Lok Sabha polls.

On February 15, the apex court asked the State Bank of India to submit details of the electoral bonds purchased since the interim order of the court dated April 12, 2019 till date to the Election Commission. The details have to include the date of purchase of each bond, the name of the purchaser and the denomination purchased. The SBI shall also submit the details of political parties which have received contributions through the bonds and must disclose details of each bond encashed by them.

The public sector bank has to submit the above information to the EC within three weeks from the date of Thursday’s judgment, that is, by March 6, 2024. The EC in turn has to publish the information shared by the SBI on its official website within one week of the receipt of the information, that is, by March 13, 2024, the court said.

According to data by the ADR, the collective amount of funds generated through the sale of electoral bonds between March 2018 and January 2024 is ₹16,518.11 crore.

Opposition questions SBI plea seeking extension to submit details of electoral bonds 

Opposition parties have questioned the SBI’s plea in the Supreme Court for extending the date to submit details of electoral bonds till June 30 and called it a “travesty of justice” and said every effort was being made to ensure the data were not released in time for the general elections, to shield the “corrupt practices” of the Narendra Modi government.  

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said it was circumspect that the SBI needed time till June 30 to retrieve information that was just one click away. In a post on X, he asked, “Narendra Modi has tried his best to hide the ‘donation business’. When the Supreme Court has said that it is the right of the countrymen to know the truth about electoral bonds, then why does SBI want this information not to be made public before the elections?” Every independent organisation of the country, he said, was now part of the extended “Modani Family” in their effort to cover up corruption. “This is the last attempt to hide Modi’s real face before the elections,” Mr. Gandhi added. 

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury asked whether the SBI’s extension is only to shield the government. In a post on X, he said, “In this digital age, all this information is a mouse-click away. Seeking extension raises suspicious apprehensions. This would be a travesty of justice. Is SBI seeking extension till after the general elections to protect Modi and BJP from exposure of the “quid pro quo” that the Hon’ble Supreme Court apprehended.” The CPI(M) is one of the petitioners in the case. 

Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Saket Gokhale said, “This is ‘Modi Ka Parivaar’ working overtime to hide the largescale corruption done by him and his party BJP.”

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