Chief Justice of India agreed to urgently hear a plea by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms to stay the sale of a new set of electoral bonds on April 1, before the Assembly elections in crucial states such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
Arguments by petition:
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission had both said that the sale of electoral bonds had become an avenue for shell corporations and entities to park illicit money and even proceeds of bribes with political parties.
- Data obtained through RTI has shown that illegal sale windows have been opened in the past to benefit certain political parties.
- There is 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.
- The scheme had “opened doors to unlimited political donations, even from foreign companies, thereby legitimizing electoral corruption at a huge scale, while at the same time ensuring complete non-transparency in political funding”.
- The government notified the scheme on January 2, 2018.
- It defended the scheme in court, saying it allowed anonymity to political donors to protect them from “political victimization”.
- The Ministry of Finance had dismissed the Election Commission’s version that the invisibility afforded to benefactors was a “retrograde step” and would wreck transparency in political funding.
- It said the earlier system of cash donations had raised a “concern among the donors that, with their identity revealed, there would be competitive pressure from different political parties receiving donation”.