Friday, February 3, 2023

Electoral Bonds: CJI NV Ramana agrees to hear case challenging issuance of bonds

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A very important matter was listed before the CJI, which could impact the funding of different political parties across country. The Supreme Court of India today has decided to hear this case which pertains to law for issuance of electoral bonds.

The matter was mentioned before the  Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana by Advocate Prashant Bhushan

“It has been reported today morning that Calcutta based company has paid ₹40 crores through electoral bonds to stop excise rate. It is distorting democracy” 

-Bhushan said.

CJI Ramana said, “If it was not for COVID etc then I would have heard all of this”

Prashant Bhushan told CJI that this was a crucial matter and should not be delayed any further.CJI agreed and gave an assent to take up this matter.

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An electoral bond is basically a promissory note or bearer bond which can be purchased by any person, company, and firm provided the person is a citizen of India and established in India. These bonds come in different denominations with a purpose of contributing funds to political parties.

It was through Finance Act 2017 that the Electoral bonds were introduced which in turn amended three other statutes – the RBI Act, the Income Tax Act and the Representation of People Act – for enabling introduction of such bonds.

Under the Finance Act, 2017  a new system was introduced for the  electoral bonds to be issued by any scheduled bank for the purpose of electoral funding. The Finance Act was passed as a money bill, which meant that it did not require the assent of Rajya Sabha.

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The petitions that were filed in this case in Supreme Court challenge at least five amendments made to different statutes through Finance Act 2017 and Finance Act 2016 because they have opened doors to unlimited, unchecked funding of political parties.

The petition was filed by two NGOs – Association for Democratic Reforms and Common Cause stating that it was intentionally adopted through the money bill method and was made to bypass the normal system to be sent to Rajya Sabha .The reason for this bypass was that the ruling BJP government does not have a majority in the Upper house.

The petitioners also made the Apex Court know that the ill-effects of the amendments are that the annual contribution reports of political parties do not have to mention the details of those contributing by way of electoral bonds, killing the transparency in political funding.This can be a great burden and problem for the Election Commission of India.

The other plea is that the Amendments were made to Section 236 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 which has opened the avenues of foreign contribution to Indian political parties.

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