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HomeBusinessElectoral bonds: SC to hear SBI's plea seeking extension to disclose details...

Electoral bonds: SC to hear SBI’s plea seeking extension to disclose details on Monday

NEW DELHI: The

Supreme Court

is set to hear application filed by

State Bank of India

(

SBI

) on Monday, seeking extension till June 30 to

disclose details

of each electoral bond encashed by political parties before the scheme was scrapped last month.
In a separate plea, contempt action has been sought against SBI alleging, it “wilfully and deliberately” disobeyed the apex court’s direction to submit details of the contributions made to political parties through

electoral bonds

to the Election Commission by March 6.

A five-judge Constitution bench, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, will hear these two petitions. The bench, which also includes justices Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai, J B Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, will convene at 10.30 am to discuss the matter.
In a ruling on February 15, a five-judge constitution bench scrapped the Centre’s electoral bonds scheme that allowed anonymous political funding, calling it “unconstitutional” and ordered to disclose the donors, donated amounts, and recipients by March 13.

The top court then directed SBI, as the authorized financial institution under the scheme, to submit the details of electoral bonds purchased from April 12, 2019, until the present to the Election Commission. The information was asked to be published on the Commission’s official website by March 13.
On March 4, SBI filed an application with the apex court seeking an extension until June 30 to disclose the details of the electoral bonds encashed by political parties.

The bank argued that retrieving information from from “each silo” and matching the data would be a time-consuming process. Due to the measures taken to protect donor anonymity, decoding the electoral bonds and matching donors to their contributions would be complex.
“The data related to the issuance of the bond and the data related to the redemption of the bond was kept recorded in two different silos. No central database was maintained. This was done to ensure that donors’ anonymity would be protected,” the bank said.
“It is submitted that donor details were kept in a sealed cover at the designated branches and all such sealed covers were deposited in the main branch of the applicant bank, which is located in Mumbai,” it said.
The contempt plea, filed by NGOs Association for Democratic Reforms and Common Cause, claimed SBI’s application seeking extension was deliberately filed at the last moment to prevent the disclosure of donor details and donation amounts before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The petition argued that this action undermined the authority of the court.
“It is submitted that the said application is mala fide and demonstrates a wilful and deliberate disobedience & defiance of the judgement passed by the constitution bench of this court. It is further a clear attempt to undermine the authority of this court,” it said.
“The petitioner herein is filing the instant petition seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against State Bank of India for wilfully and deliberately disobeying the order dated February 15 passed by this court … wherein this court directed SBI to submit details of contribution made to the political parties through electoral bonds to the

Election Commission of India

by March 6,” the contempt plea said.
The petition further said that the electoral bond scheme’s clause 7 allows the disclosure of buyer information when demanded by a competent court.
“As per clause 12 (4) of the scheme, electoral bonds have to be encashed within fifteen days failing which the amount of bonds not encashed are to be deposited by the bank to the PM relief Fund. Thus, it is inconceivable that SBI does not have the recorded information readily available within its data base,” it said.
The petition said that electoral bonds are “completely traceable”, evident from the fact that the SBI maintains a secret number-based record of donors and the political parties they donate to. Any form of anonymity in the finances of political parties goes against the principles of participatory democracy and the public’s right to information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
The availability of information about electoral bonds will allow voters to make informed decisions, It added.
(With input from agencies)