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No Magic! Govt’s Secret Policing of Donations Via Electoral Bonds

On readers’ demand, we demonstrate how hidden unique numbers on ‘anonymous’ electoral bonds appear under UV light.

3 min read

Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam


The Quint’s expose revealed that the Modi-led government had misled the public when it said that its electoral bonds would keep the identities of political donors anonymous.

On 13 April, we published a report revealing the government’s secret surveillance of donors to opposition parties through the electoral bonds – the lab result showed that each electoral bond contains a hidden unique alphanumeric sequence to track donors, visible only under Ultra Violet (UV) light. The government has since claimed that this is merely a ‘security feature’.

On readers’ demand, in this video we will demonstrate how the hidden unique number on the electoral bond appears under UV light.


It’s Illegal and Should Be Challenged In Court: Ex-RBI Director

According to former RBI director, Vipin Malik, this kind of ‘security feature’’ is not used on any currency, nor or any other legal paper.

Malik explains the technology used to emboss such a hidden feature on the electoral bond.

I don’t think it’s an ink, I think it is embossed in it. When the bond is printed, the number is embossed during that time and the numbering machine automatically keeps on printing those numbers. The State Bank of India definitely have these numbers and when they sell the bonds, they are definitely recording these numbers.  
Vipin Malik, Former Director RBI

Shouldn’t the SBI have informed buyers about the hidden unique number on bonds while selling them?

I would say it’s beyond unethical. After reading the Electoral Bond scheme, to my mind it seems it could be illegal as well. If it is challenged in the court, the court may take a different view.
Vipin Malik, Former Director RBI

The government amended Section 29 C of Representation of People Act and Section 182 of Companies Act to introduce these electoral bonds. These amendments, despite claims of increasing transparency, made electoral bonds more opaque and helpful as an instrument through which to route black money on three grounds:

  • The political parties don’t have to declare to the Election Commission any donations received via electoral bonds.
  • Companies don’t have to declare these political donations in their profit and loss statements.
  • Previously, there was a cap on donations of 7.5% of the net profit of the company. Now companies can make political donations of any amount through electoral bonds.

In a letter to the Law Minister, the Election Commission (EC) of India raised objections to the amendments made by the government, but the government has not yet responded to the EC.

[EC’s objection] means that they are not accepting the government policy. It means that the Election Commission has doubts that democracy will be affected if this kind of secret numbering is there.
Vipin Malik, Former Director RBI

So far, the government has sold these bonds in three tranches. In two of them, in April and May, the government sold Rs 320 crores’ worth.

Maybe with your inputs and disclosures, they may correct it. I will say that if this is not corrected, the party in power has a full advantage of misusing it, so it must be corrected. You must ask the Election Commission how many parties have filed their tax returns. You will find that almost everybody is in default even after the order of the High Court and Supreme Court. They have not filed the tax returns because they have something more to conceal.
Vipin Malik, Former Director, RBI

The Quint asks:

  • Why do electoral bonds need these hidden numbers, when neither our currency nor any other legal papers do?
  • Why was the public not informed about these hidden number on electoral bonds when claims were being made of donor anonymity?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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