The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will pronounce its verdict on the plea to stay issuance of electoral bonds at 10.30 am on Friday while rejecting the Centre's appeal to let it continue using the funding system till the end of Lok Sabha Election 2019.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is hearing a petition filed by the NGO Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).
The Centre and the Election Commission (EC) has taken contrary stand in the matter with the government wanting to maintain anonymity of donors while the election watchdog vouching for transparency.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told the bench which also comprised of Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, that the bonds were introduced to stem flow of black money and requested the apex court to let it continue till the end of the election as it was a policy decision.
"So far as the electoral bond scheme is concerned, it is the matter of policy decision of the government and no government can be faulted for taking policy decision," Venugopal said, adding the court can scrutinise the scheme after the election.
#ElectoralBonds: Request Your Lordship not to interfere for the time being. Let it continue till the end of this elections, once the new govt comes to power, it will review the scheme, submits AG KK Venugopal.#SupremeCourt
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) April 11, 2019
Venugopal's comments, however, drew flak from various quarters, with people raising questions on the anonymous nature of these bonds.
Dear AG, we live in a democracy where people have a fundamental right to information. How are citizens expected to vote for a party if they don’t know who the party is funded by, and therefore who the party will work for?? #Elections2019 #ElectoralBonds https://t.co/iapRVkqcdp — Anjali Bhardwaj (@AnjaliB_) April 11, 2019
The plea filed by ADR, and represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, had challenged the validity of the scheme and sought interim relief, including that either the issuance of electoral bonds be stayed or the names of the donors be made public to ensure transparency in the poll process.
The application has stated that many donations were made in denominations of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore which raised suspicions about these being given by corporate firms.
The EC or ADR were not the only bodies which raised concerns about these electoral bonds. On 2 February, 2018, the apex court had sought the Centre's response on a plea by the CPM which termed these bonds as "arbitrary and discriminatory".
The EC had, in fact, raised concerns as early as 2017, the same year when Union minister Arun Jaitley first floated the idea of electoral bonds in his Budget 2017-18 speech. The poll panel had written a three-page letter on 26 May, 2017, saying that amendments have been made in the Finance Act, 2017, which brought changes in the Income-Tax Act, the Companies Act, 2013 and the Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951, to provide launch of these electoral bonds. The amendments, the commission noted, could have "serious impact on transparency".
The Centre had on 4 April further opposed the EC and justified the changes in law saying it was "a pioneer step" to bring poll reforms "ensuring transparency" and "accountability" in political funding.
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Updated Date: Apr 11, 2019 15:30:48 IST