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Do political parties currently have no choice but to reveal the names of donors?

News Trust of India: On Monday, the Supreme court discussed electoral bonds again, telling the State Bank of India to reveal all relevant information about these bonds. The instruction said that all material must be revealed by the 21st of March, leaving only three days for disclosure. Therefore, it will soon be revealed whether organizations or individuals have donated how much through electoral bonds to specific political entities. The new orders from the top court have forced political groups to reveal who is supporting them.

SBI recently informed the Election Commission about electoral bonds, which led political bodies to provide their details to the repository. Afterwards, the ECI has shared this information with the public. Many groups have shared how much money they received, but most have chosen not to reveal who gave it to them. If the identities are not disclosed within the specified time, SBI will handle the disclosure. With Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, the bench also included Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra.

‘Political factions cannot obscure information’

Previously, the data given by SBI to the Election Commission just indicated the aggregate donations collected by each party and the entities acquiring bonds and their respective values. However, the specifics of which company or individual gave what to which party remained obscure. Yet, according to the Supreme Court’s decree, political groupings are now forced to share this information as well. The Court’s judgment has unequivocally demanded that political factions submit facts relating electoral bonds without omission.

‘Now SBI mandated to provide affidavit’

The Highest Court directed that the Chairman of SBI must submit an affidavit after disclosing all bond-related data by 5 p.m. on Thursday (March 21), ensuring no details are hidden. CJI DY Chandrachud remarked, “The ruling specifically stipulated the disclosure of all data. There must be no selective disclosure.” “Transparency is imperative,” he emphasized. “Every conceivable detail must be brought to light,” the Court iterated. The Chairman of SBI is duty-bound to abide to the Court’s judgment.

What did the Highest Court articulate?

“We demand the disclosure of any electoral bond-related material in your possession. We operate under the assumption that you do not represent a political faction in this circumstance.” The five-judge bench articulated, “The electoral bond information given by SBI were insufficient. SBI cannot exercise selectivity. It must reveal all feasible facts relevant to electoral bonds in its possession, inclusive of the unique bond numbers. This would disclose the correlation between the purchaser and the recipient political entity. SBI must reveal full facts, including alphanumeric and serial numbers of the bonds. Upon purchase or redemption of a bond, the Election Commission will quickly upload the details on its website, subsequent to receiving the information from SBI.

In its momentous verdict on February 15, the Highest Court annulled the Centre’s electoral bond system, considering it illegal. It asked SBI to divulge donor profiles, donation amounts, and recipients by March 13, asking it to send this information to the Election Commission. The Supreme Court had earlier summoned the bank for non-compliance with the ruling and scheduled a hearing on March 18.

On April 12, 2019, the Supreme Court issued an interim decision demanding that political factions must provide information regarding donations received to the Election Commission in a sealed envelope.

Factions give data to Election Commission

On Sunday, the Election Commission published new evidence regarding electoral donations. Political factions alerted the Election Commission of this problem. The BJP reported receiving Rs 6986.5 crore in electoral donations from 2018 to November 2023. The BJP collected Rs 100-100 crore on eight times and Rs 200 crore in a single day. The JDU reported that on April 3, 2019, a sealed packet was brought to the party office, containing ten bonds valued Rs 1 crore each.