The Print
New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that it will hear in March a batch of pleas challenging the government’s Electoral Bond scheme which allows for anonymous funding to political parties.

A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha posted the matter for hearing in the third week of March.

It also said that two other petitions –one raising the issue of bringing political parties under the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) and the other regarding the certification under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) for political funding, are distinct from the case of the electoral bonds and will be heard separately.

The bench posted the matters for hearing in April.

Earlier, advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing NGOs Association for Democratic Reforms and Common Cause – petitioners in the case, had told the apex court that the matter should be referred to a five-judge Constitution bench.

Earlier, an application was filed before the apex court relating to the Centre amending the Electoral Bonds scheme to allow their sale for 15 extra days during the “year of general elections to the legislative assembly of States and Union territories with the legislature”.

The fresh application was filed by Congress leader Jaya Thakur in the main matter, pending since 2017.

Jaya Thakur had challenged the Electoral Bond scheme which allows for anonymous funding to political parties.

An Electoral Bond is an instrument in the nature of a promissory note or bearer bond which can be purchased 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. The bonds are issued specifically for the purpose of contributing funds to political parties.

The Ministry of Finance on November 7, 2022, issued a notification for amending the scheme to provide “an additional period of 15 days” for their sale “in the year of general elections to the Legislative Assembly of States and Union Territories with Legislature”.

“An additional period of fifteen days shall be specified by the central government in the year of general elections to the legislative assembly of states and Union territories with the legislature,” the gazette notification said.

The government notified the Electoral Bond Scheme in 2018. The bonds under this scheme are usually made available for purchase by any person for a period of ten days each in the months of January, April, July, and October, when specified by the Union government.

The original scheme had provided for an additional period of thirty days, as specified by the government, in the year when Lok Sabha elections are held, while the amendment adds another 15 days.

In October, the Centre in an affidavit had said that methodology of the electoral bonds scheme is a “completely transparent” mode of political funding and it is impossible to get black money or unaccounted money.

Various petitions are pending before the top court challenging at least amendments made to different statutes through the Finance Act 2017 and Finance Act 2016 on the ground that they have opened doors to unlimited, unchecked funding of political parties.

NGOs Association of Democratic Reforms and Common Cause have said that the Finance Bill, 2017, which paved the way for the introduction of the electoral bond scheme, was passed as a money bill even though it wasn’t.

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