supreme court: Supreme Court agrees to hear plea on Poll Bond Scheme Amendment


The Supreme Court said on Monday that it would hear a plea challenging a recent government notification providing an additional 15 days for the sale of electoral bonds in a year when elections are held for the legislative assemblies of states and union territories.

The 15-day additional sale window was previously provided only during years of parliamentary elections. The notification, which came just ahead of the elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, has extended that provision to years of assembly elections as well.

A clutch of petitions, challenging nearly half a dozen provisions of the Finance Act, 2017 that brought in the electoral bonds for anonymous donations to political parties, is already pending adjudication in the top court.

The fresh plea, mentioned before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, challenges the notification earlier this month that amended the scheme to provide the additional window. According to the notification, the sale of electoral bonds is allowed from November 9 to November 15.

Describing the notification as “illegal”, senior advocate Anoop Chaudhari sought an urgent hearing of the plea. “They are issuing a notification against the scheme. This notification is illegal”, Chaudhari argued.

Three statutes – the RBI Act, the Income Tax Act and the Representation of People Act – were amended for enabling the issue of bonds for anonymous political funding. The Finance Act, 2017, which provided for the scheme, was passed as a Money Bill.

Petitions challenging anonymous electoral bonds claimed that they had paved the way for unlimited, unchecked funding of political parties. In October, a division bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna had posed these petitions for resumed hearing to December 6.

Two petitioners – NGOs Association for Democratic Reforms and Common Cause – have alleged that the government had deliberately taken the route of Money Bill so as to bypass the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling dispensation was not in majority.

The amendments have brought in complete opacity and unaccountability, for the political parties need not furnish to the Election Commission of India the names and addresses of those contributing by way of electoral bonds, according to the petitioners.

The removal of the cap on donations have also been impugned by the petitions, dubbing it as opening the avenues of foreign contribution to Indian political parties. Amendments to the Companies Act, 2013 and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 are among those that have been challenged.

The apex court in March last year had refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds ahead of assembly elections in some states.


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