Source: 
The Indian Express
https://indianexpress.com/article/india/supreme-court-verdict-on-electoral-bonds-scheme-highlights-9162719/
Author: 
Express Web Desk
Date: 
15.02.2024
City: 
New Delhi

The pleas were heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

The Supreme Court on Thursday pronounced its judgement on petitions challenging the electoral bonds scheme, concluding that it is violative of Article 19(1)(a) and unconstitutional.

The pleas were heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra. The five-judge bench delivered two separate but unanimous verdicts on pleas challenging the scheme. They had previously heard the matter and reserved the verdict on November 2, 2023.

The verdict comes months before the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. The electoral bond system was set in place in 2017 and allowed individuals and companies to donate money to political parties anonymously and without any limits. It allowed a person or company can buy electoral bonds from the State Bank of India and donate them to a political party of their choice.

Here are the top quotes from the verdict:

The Chief Justice of India said, “The electoral bonds scheme and the impugned provisions to the extent that they infringe upon the right to information of the voter by anonymising contribution through electoral bonds are violative of Article 19 (1)(a),”

“Political contributions give a seat at the table to the contributor… this access also translates into influence over policy making,” said the CJI.

“Information about funding of political parties is essential for the effective exercise of the choice of voting,” he added.

“The ability of a company to influence the electoral process through political contributions is much higher when compared to that of an individual… contributions made by companies are purely business transactions made with the intent of securing benefits in return,” said the apex court.

“There is also a legitimate possibility that financial contributions to a political party would lead to a quid pro quo arrangement because of the close nexus between money and politics. The Electoral Bond scheme and the impugned provisions to the extent that they infringe upon the right to information of the voter by anonymous contributions through Electoral Bonds are violative of Article 19(1)(a),” the verdict said.

The CJI said, “The ability of a company to influence the electoral process through political contributions is much higher when compared to that of an individual. A company has a much graver influence in the political process, both in terms of the quantum of money contributed to political parties and the purpose of making such contributions. Contributions made by individuals have a degree of support or affiliation to a political association. However, contributions made by companies are purely business transactions made with the intent of securing benefits in return. The amendment to Section 182 is manifestly arbitrary for treating political contributions by companies and individuals alike,” as per a report on the legal news website Live Law.

The court said, “The purpose of Section 182 is to curb corruption and electoral financing. For instance, the purpose of banning a government company from contributing is to prevent such companies from entering the political fray by making contributions to political parties. The amendment to Section 182 by permitting unlimited corporate contributions authorises unrestrained influence of companies in the electoral process, which is violative of the principles of free and fair elections and political equality captured in the value of ‘one person, one vote’,” as per a report on the legal news website Live Law.

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