The central government had on January 29, 2018, notified the electoral bond scheme. (Photo Credit: File Photo)
In a massive boon for the political parties, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to put stay on the scheme of electoral bonds ahead of the crucial Delhi Assembly Elections. While giving the order, Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde said that, “If stay of electoral bonds scheme was not granted by the Supreme Court before, we may also not grant it now.” The matter will be heard in two weeks. Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing on behalf of the petitioner ADR had sought the stay on the electoral bond scheme.
“New facts have come in about opening of scheme for benami funds to flow in to ruling party coffers. The Reserve Bank of India and the Election Commission of India has warned about black money coming in,” Bhushan said during the hearing. Bhushan had also said that the scheme of electoral bonds, which was for the Lok Sabha polls, was being opened for the state elections.
Last year, the scheme had sparked a massive controversy after several media reports had claimed that RBI Governor Urjit Patel had warned the Modi government against the electoral bonds. A Telegraph report said that the ex-RBI governor wrote at least three letters to then finance minister Arun Jaitley in 2017 warning that allowing anyone other than the central bank to issue electoral bonds is fraught with risk and that the entire exercise could undermine the positives of demonetisation.
The Congress had also raised this issue in Parliament. Describing electoral bonds as a "political bribery scheme", the Opposition party had said it was a scam that tarnished the image of the Indian democracy. "What we are talking about today leads straight to the PM's office. The BJP govt is running 90 per cent of the business in this country with a few industrialists," senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had said.
Earlier on January 15, the election watchdog Association For Democratic Reforms (ADR) had issued a report that gave details of funds raised by major political parties. The BJP raised Rs 2,410 crore during 2018-19, of which Rs 1,450 crore came as donations through electoral bonds, according to ADR report. The Congress raised Rs 918.03 crore, of which 383.26 crore came through the debt instrument, which can be purchased from select branches of State Bank of India and donated to any political party. During the financial year 2018-19, out of the six national parties, only the BJP, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress "have declared receiving an income from contribution through electoral bonds, a total of Rs 1,931.43 crore", according to an ADR analysis released on Wednesday.