The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear next week a plea seeking stay on the fresh sale of electoral bonds from April 1 till the court decides on their validity.
The plea filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms claimed there was a serious apprehension that any further sale of electoral Bonds before the upcoming state elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam, would further increase illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and .V Ramasubramanian said the court will hear the matter on Wednesday next week. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for ADR, mentioned the matter before the court and sought urgent listing of the matter.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted before the bench that Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had appeared in the matter and there is no objection on matter being heard next week. The bench told Mehta: “In a matter like this, we are sure you will find some time.”
The ADR has urged the top court to direct the Centre not to open any further window for sale of electoral bonds under the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018, during the pendency of its writ petition.
The petitioner said it filed an intervention application in March 2019 and also in November 2019. In October, last year, the organisation filed an application for early hearing in view of the upcoming Bihar elections then. However, the matter has not been listed for more than a year now.
“The Electoral Bonds Scheme has opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which can have serious repercussions on the Indian democracy”, the plea argued.
The plea said the Finance Act of 2017 had introduced the use of electoral bonds which is exempt from disclosure under the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, opening doors to unchecked, unknown funding to political parties. It argued that these amendments have removed the existing cap of 7.5 per cent of net profit in the last 3 years on campaign donations by companies and have legalised anonymous donations.
“Even loss-making companies now qualify to make donations of any amount to political parties out of their capital or reserves. Further, it opens up the possibility of companies being brought into existence by unscrupulous elements primarily for routing funds to political parties through anonymous and opaque instruments like electoral bonds”, argued the plea.