The Supreme Court on Monday declined a stay on the electoral bonds scheme of 2018. A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant gave the Centre and the Election Commission two weeks’ time to file a reply. The petitions was filed by two NGOs —  Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Common Cause, and Communist Part of India (CPIM).

Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Association for Democratic Reforms told the bench that Delhi elections are coming up in February and such a prime facie illegal scheme should not be allowed to continue.

The 13th tranche of electoral bond sale will take place from January 13 to January 22, 2020.

The Supreme Court in November, last year, refused to stay the issuance of electoral bonds for political donation, but directed all the parties to reveal the details of donations received through electoral bonds to the Election Commission in a sealed cover by May 30.

In its order, the Supreme Court had also said that while it is willing to hear the matter at length at a later stage, for the interim stay it wanted a situation where the balance was not tilted in anyone’s favour.

The petition submits that the amendments made in the Finance Act “jeopardises the very foundation of Indian democracy.”

The petition filed by CPI(M) sought to strike down the Electoral Bonds and amendment in the Finance Act, 2017, which allows for “unlimited donations from individuals and foreign companies to political parties without any record of the sources of funding.

The petition contended that both the ends of the transactions have been secured and made secretive, neither the contributor nor the recipient of the fund is required to disclose the details and identity of the other”. This has been done by bringing an amendment to the Representation of the Peoples Act, which required disclosure of identity–names and address of contributors in the account statement of political parties. Further, the petition said that the system of corporate donations have been made “secretive” by removing the legal obligation of disclosure of the names of political parties to whom contributions have been made by bringing corresponding amendment to the Companies Act, 2003.

The Central government had on January 2, 2018, had notified the electoral bond scheme. The instrument is like a promissory note that may be purchased by any Indian Citizen or a company incorporated or established in India from select branched of the State Bank of India. The citizen can  then donate the same to any political party of his choice which is registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 and has secured no less than one per cent votes in the Last Lok Sabha elections. The electoral bonds can be purchased four times a year–January, April, July and October.

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