The Supreme Court on Thursday to hear a petition seeking a stay on 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 (ADR) to stay the sale of a new set of electoral bonds before Assembly elections in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry. The new application has been moved in a pending petition 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 of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices A.S. Bopanna and Justice V. Ramasubramanian.
The ADR application stated that there is a serious apprehension that any further sale of electoral bonds before the upcoming state elections would increase illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.
The petitioner highlighted that the plea challenging electoral bonds has been pending in the Top Court since September 2017. The matter was last heard on January 20 last year following which 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 legitimizing electoral corruption at a huge scale, while at the same time ensuring complete non-transparency in political funding, said the Counsel for the NGO.
Bhushan claimed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission had both 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 K.K. Venugopal appeared in this case on behalf of the Centre. Chief Justice Bobde said the matter would require a detailed hearing and posted the case for March 24.
In the 2017 petition, the petitioner alleged that the Finance Act was passed as a money bill, which meant that it did not require the assent of Rajya Sabha and was done to bypass the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP government did 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.