New Delhi, Mar 24 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today reserved order on an application filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), seeking an interim direction to bar the sale of Electoral Bonds in view of the upcoming Assembly elections in the States of West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, besides the Union Territory of Puducherry.
Expressing concerns over the possible misuse of EBs by political parties, by diverting the funds to non-political activities, including terrorism, the Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian asked the Central government to look into the potential misuse of funds received through the scheme.
“What is the control of government on the money being used after encashing bonds?”, CJI Bobde asked the Attorney General for India KK Venugopal.
“There are political parties who do terrorism. This angle of possibility of funding of terrorism through funding needs to be examined. It is possible that funds through this mechanism are diverted by particular people for other purposes with an agenda…You can start a protest, with this funding. You can start many things,” said the Bench.
The Solicitor General submitted that only political parties with at least one percent vote share can take EBs.
Unconvinced, the CJI remarked, “We are sure that there are parties who meet this criteria and have violence as an agenda. We don’t want to get into political arena and don’t want to comment on any political party. Suppose, there is a party which wants to finance a protest, which has the potential of violence, can’t they use bonds to fund it?”
Turning to the AG, the CJI asked whether the Government exercises control on the money being used after encashing the bonds. The AG replied, “The bonds are valid only for 15 days. After that, it is paper. Political parties have to file income tax returns. Except the CPI(M) and another party, no other national parties filed the returns. The case came before the Supreme Court, which condemned the parties and directed them to file returns. Even the Congress party did not file. It was after the Supreme Court judgement that all started filing. So now, the question of such misuse cannot arise. They have to file returns.”
However, the Election Commission of India opposed the stay on sale of electoral bonds. The EC said they were not opposed to electoral bonds, but want more transparency. But, Electoral Bonds is one step ahead unaccounted cash system, the Commission added. The issue of transparency can be considered at the final argument stage, and there should be no interim stay, EC Counsel Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi told the SC. ILNS/SNG/RJ