New Delhi, Mar 18 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today agreed to hear a petition, which sought restraining the fresh sale of electoral bonds from April 1, until the apex court decides on the validity of these bonds.
The application was filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms, to stay the sale of a new set of electoral bonds before the Assembly elections in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry. The new application has been moved in a petition pending on this issue by the same organisation.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the ADR, mentioned the matter for an urgent listing of the case before the bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
The application by the ADR stated that there was a serious apprehension that any further sale of Electoral Bonds before the upcoming state elections would further increase the illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.
The petitioner highlighted that the plea challenging the electoral bonds has been pending in the top court since September, 2017. The matter was last heard on January 20 last year, following which the ADR had requested the court in October last year to list the matter ahead of the Assembly elections in Bihar. However, the matter was not listed.
The scheme had opened doors to unlimited political donations, even from foreign companies, thereby legitimising electoral corruption at a huge scale, while at the same time ensuring complete non-transparency in political funding, said the Councel for the NGO.
Mr Bhushan claimed that both the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission had said that the sale of electoral bonds had become an avenue for shell corporations and entities to park illicit money and even proceeds of bribes with political parties.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government, informed the Court that Attorney General KK Venugopal appeared in this case on behalf of the Central. CJI Bobde said the matter would require a detailed hearing and posted the case for March 24.
In the petition filed in 2017, the petitioner had alleged that the Finance Act was passed as a money bill, which meant that it did not require the assent of the Rajya Sabha, done deliberately in order to bypass the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling BJP government does not have a majority. The Finance Act, 2017 introduced a system of electoral bonds to be issued by any scheduled bank for the purpose of electoral funding, it noted. ILNS/SNG/RJ