Indian Express

The electoral bonds scheme was first mentioned in 2017 when then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented it as a way to reform electoral funding in the country.

India’s apex court will hear the petitions challenging the electoral bonds scheme. While this news should be welcomed, it is noteworthy that Chief Justice of India N V Ramana has not specified any specific date or set any timeline for arriving at a judgment. Two prominent non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in India — Common Cause and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) — have legally challenged the scheme that was started in 2018. They, along with several other critics, have been alleging that the introduction of electoral bonds is “distorting democracy” in India. Given the increasingly polarised nature of India’s polity, it is of utmost importance that the Supreme Court either removes all doubts about the validity of the scheme or orders the government to make the necessary changes.

The electoral bonds scheme was first mentioned in 2017 when then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented it as a way to reform electoral funding in the country. Until then, most political parties used to bypass scrutiny of their finances by claiming that they received most of their donations in cash. Further, since cash amounts less than Rs 20,000 were exempted from scrutiny, parties routinely claimed that most of the donations they received were in cash and in amounts less than Rs 20,000. This opened channels for black money to flow into political parties. So Jaitley capped cash donations at Rs 2,000 and introduced electoral bonds, which could only be bought either by cheque or a digital transfer. These steps, it was assumed, would ensure that black money was not used to fund elections.

However, in actual practice, the electoral bonds scheme has left a lot to be desired. For one, it has not improved transparency in electoral funding. Worse still, it is being argued that this scheme has rigged the game in favour of the ruling party. That’s because while a donor’s identity is hidden from the public view, it is possible for the ruling party to know since these bonds are issued by a government-owned bank (State Bank of India). This advantage with the ruling party allows the possibility for the government of the day to either extort money or victimise those individuals/ entities that fund the Opposition. The fact that the BJP has cornered more than 75 per cent of all such bonds issued to date gives credence to this criticism. Another key area of concern is that the government, as part of the introduction of the electoral bonds, had removed the cap on how much money a company could donate. A quick closure in these matters is necessary to ensure transparency in campaign financing, critical to the integrity of the electoral process.

© Association for Democratic Reforms
Privacy And Terms Of Use
Donation Payment Method