The Indian Express
George Mathew

The ability of a company to influence the electrical process through political contribution is much higher when compared to that of an individual, the Supreme Court said in its verdict Thursday.

Political parties mobilised Rs 16,518 crore in 30 phases of the electoral bond scheme since 2018. According to records, around 94 per cent of the bonds had a face value of Rs 1 crore in most of the 30 phases, indicating that corporates and high net-worth individuals could have been principal donors.

The ability of a company to influence the electrical process through political contribution is much higher when compared to that of an individual, the Supreme Court said in its verdict Thursday. “A company has a much graver influence on the political process, both in terms of the quantum of money contributed to political parties and the purpose of making such contributions,” it said. The concern is that financial support to a political party can lead to quid pro quo arrangement, especially in policy interventions.

As per the EB scheme, which was operationalised through State Bank of India, details of the donors were kept anonymous.

Many companies funded directly as well as through unlisted associate firms and trusts. Most of them have not disclosed the funding in their balance sheets as separate entries,” said a corporate source.

Naushad Forbes, co-chairperson, Forbes Marshall said: “It is a very welcome judgement by the Supreme court and the court is right to say that it has to be transparent and you cannot have anonymous donations. However, any change should only be prospective and not retrospective and that is the only area of concern.”

Electoral bonds are instruments like promissory notes or bearer bonds that can be purchased anonymously by any individual, company, firm or association of persons, provided the person or body is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India. These are valid for 15 days from the date of issue.

SBI issued them in denominations of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore.

According to SBI, donors gave Rs 1,056.73 crore in 2018, Rs 5,071.99 crore in 2019, Rs 363.96 crore in 2020, Rs 1,502.29 crore in 2021, Rs 3,703 crore in 2022 and Rs 4,818 crore in 2023.

With details of donors exempt from the Right to Information Act, SBI has only been providing the total number of EBs sold and encashed over the years and the number of parties eligible to encash EBs. On November 2, 2023, the Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission to submit data of the electoral bonds received by political parties till September 30.

Political parties mobilised Rs 570.05 crore through electoral bonds in the 30th phase in January – the last phase — even though there was no election anywhere in the country during the month. This amount was mobilised during the sale period of January 2-11, 2024.

Ahead of the recently concluded state elections, political parties garnered Rs 1,006 crore from anonymous donors in the 29th phase of the sale of Electoral Bonds between November 6-20.

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