The Supreme Court on Friday, 26 March, refused to stay the issuance and sale of electoral bonds ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls and dismissed the application filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reform (ADR).
The order was pronounced by a Bench – comprising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian – stating that 'sufficient safeguards are already in place.'
“The bonds are released at periodical intervals in January, April, July and October of every year; that they had been so released in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 without any impediment, and that certain safeguards have been provided by this Court in its interim order dated 12.4.2019, we do not see any justification for the grant of stay at this stage.”Supreme Court
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the NGO, had vehemently argued that for the time being, the sale of electoral bonds should be stopped. He submitted that a letter written by the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in which it was stated that the electoral bonds scheme was fraught with risk and would impact India’s financial system.
At this, the bench had said: "If your argument is correct, we have to strike down the law in full."
ADR had also informed the top court that the case was last heard in January 2020 and even after a similar application was filed on 27 December 2020, seeking an urgent hearing of the case, the matter was not listed.
“The RBI said there may be use of these electoral bonds to fund shell companies etc. The RBI said this will put them at a reputational risk. Here, bribing has been made through government channels. Apart from the bank, no one will know who is the donor, not even ECI.”Prashant Bhushan
The AG had also informed the SC that the Election Commission has given permission for the opening sale of electoral bonds between 1 to 10 April.
Terror Funding Via Electoral Bonds?
The bench had asked Attorney General KK Venugopal about "the misuse of funds for illegal purposes or terrorism.”
“We would like you, as a government, to look into it. It is not to suggest that political parties have violence on their agenda," the bench had said.
The AG sought to clarify that the bonds are purchased through either demand drafts or cheques, and it is white money going through banking channels. “Terrorism is not funded by white money,” he had stressed.
The bench continued to pose queries, asking if "there could a political party, which is qualified for the bonds, and has violence on their agenda.[sic.]"
The bench, however, added that it does not intend to get into politics, or make a comment on any political party.
'SC Didn't Even Bother to Open Sealed Cover'
Expressing his disagreement with the judgment, Advocate Prashant Bhushan told The Quint that the Supreme Court did not bother to even open the sealed cover that have names of the donors of the electoral bonds.
He further said that it’s very unfortunate that the court failed to hear the matter for two years, despite several applications were moved for urgent hearing on electoral bonds.
Commenting on the apex court’s refusal to stay the electoral bonds, ADR’s Founder, Jagdeep Chhoker, said,
“The SC order is disappointing but not unexpected. We will continue to pursue this issue.”