The Print

NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), one of the petitioners in the electoral bond case, Thursday termed the decision to strike down the scheme a big boost to democracy but also noted that the infirmities which existed in the electoral system pre-2017 still have to be worked on.

In a landmark verdict delivered within spitting distance of the Lok Sabha polls, the Supreme Court scrapped the government’s electoral bonds scheme of anonymous political funding, terming it “unconstitutional” and ordering disclosure of the names of the purchasers, value of the bonds and their recipients.

Last October, the bench began hearing arguments on the four petitions, including those filed by Congress leader Jaya Thakur, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and ADR.

“We welcome this landmark judgement wholeheartedly. The Supreme Court has given a big boost to Indian Democracy, something our freedom struggle fought for. ADR is privileged to have played a small role in carrying that legacy forward,” Trilochan Sastry, chairman, founder member and trustee of ADR, said.

Another founder member and trustee Jagdeep Chhokar said the judgment restores the faith of the people in democracy, rule of law, and the Supreme Court.

“It has comprehensively removed the latest mischief in the electoral system introduced in 2017, but we have to remember that the infirmities which existed in the electoral system pre-2017 still have to be worked on. In the euphoria of this judgment, we must not forget or overlook ground reality,” Chhokar said.

Shivani Kapoor, program lead and manager (legal) at ADR, said to fix the system, to contain corruption and to seek complete transparency and accountability in political functioning and finances, every penny should be accounted for.

“This Right to Know is a very sturdy right which will not only help citizens make an informed choice but it will also help and encourage voters to audit, question, review and seek direct answers from the government and political parties for their actions and inaction. Today’s judgment has once again reinforced that citizens’ role is not just voting once in five years,” she said.

“A truly historic judgement, a victory for the voter, an assertion for free and fair elections & and the common man’s right to know who funds the political parties. SC is to be congratulated for upholding Article 19 (a) of the Constitution.” said Maj Gen Anil Verma (retd), head of ADR.

Shelly Mahajan, program and research officer (Political Party Watch) at ADR, said, “The SC has made it clear that the citizens’ right to information cannot be compromised for the informational privacy of the companies. However, the fight is not over yet – we cannot rest till a better system of political funding is in place. For now, this is a moment to rejoice as this is a big win for citizens of India.” Holding that the 2018 scheme was “violative” of the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression and right to information, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud did not agree with the Centre’s contention that it was meant to bring about transparency and curb black money in political funding.

Ordering closure of the scheme forthwith, the top court also directed the State Bank of India, the authorised financial institution under the scheme, to submit by March 6 the details of electoral bonds purchased since April 12, 2019 till date to the Election Commission, which will publish the information on its official website by March 13.

Electoral bonds have accounted for more than Rs 16,000 crore worth funds contributed to various political parties so far, a lion’s share is estimated to have gone to the BJP, data shows.

All political parties put together received more than Rs 12,000 crore till last fiscal since the introduction of the now-annulled electoral bond scheme in 2018, of which the ruling BJP got nearly 55 per cent or Rs 6,565 crore, according to the data available with Election Commission and ADR.

While the party-wise data for the current fiscal 2023-24 would be available later after they file annual audit reports for the year, ADR put the collective amount of funds generated through sale of electoral bonds between March 2018 and January 2024 at Rs 16,518.11 crore.

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