The Supreme Court of India has ruled the electoral bonds scheme, permitting anonymous donations to political parties, as unconstitutional today. The court asserted that the scheme infringes upon the right to information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. In addition to striking down the scheme, the five-judge Constitution Bench has nullified the amendments made to the Income Tax Act and the Representation of People Act, which facilitated anonymous donations.

A constitution bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra heard a batch of cases challenging the controversial electoral bonds scheme over a period of three days, before reserving the verdict in November. This judgment was delivered on Thursday morning.

SBI directed to furnish details of electoral bonds received
Of particular note, the State Bank of India has been directed to furnish details of electoral bonds received by political parties to the Election Commission of India (ECI) by March 6. Subsequently, the ECI will publish these details on its official website by 13 March. Furthermore, electoral bonds that remain unencashed by political parties have been instructed to be returned, with the issuing bank refunding the amount to the purchaser’s account.

Rejecting submissions from the Centre, the court declared that the scheme cannot be justified on the grounds of curbing black money in politics. It emphasized that transparency in political funding cannot be achieved by granting absolute exemptions.

The electoral bonds scheme, introduced by the government on 2 January 2018, enabled anonymous donations to political parties through monetary instruments. This move prompted challenges from various quarters, including Congress leader Dr Jaya Thakur, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). They argued that the scheme opened the “floodgates” to anonymous political donations, infringing upon voters’ right to information.

In response, the Union government defended the scheme, asserting that anonymity in political donations is necessary to prevent retribution from rival parties and ensure the use of legitimate funds through proper banking channels.

Opposition hails verdict
The Supreme Court’s decision has been widely welcomed by opposition parties. Rahul Gandhi, in a Hindi post on X (formally Twitter), described it as “another proof of Narendra Modi’s corrupt policies.” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge hailed the decision as a strike against the “Black Money Conversion scheme” of the Modi government, expressing hope for future adherence to the Supreme Court’s rulings.

AIADMK chief Edappadi K Palaniswami commended the verdict, highlighting that his party did not receive funds through the scheme. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin also welcomed the decision, asserting that it ensures transparency in the electoral process and restores faith in democracy.

MTNews Desk

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