Electoral Bond: CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM move SC against disclosure, CJI declines

The court also declined to hear a petition filed by SCBA President Adish Aggarwala who sought the Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud to invoke suo motu review of the electoral bonds judgement.
Supreme Court
Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court, on Monday, March 18, categorically refused to entertain the petition filed by major industries associations Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), seeking to defer the disclosure of electoral bond unique identification numbers. The alpha-numeric numbers of the electoral bonds will be helpful in determining which donors gave money for political parties of their choice. The CJI also outrightly denied the request of the industries bodies to be heard stating that they have approached the court after the judgement was delivered.

The court also declined to hear a petition filed by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Adish Aggarwala who sought the Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud to invoke suo motu review of the electoral bonds judgement. The apex court, on March 15, directed the State Bank of India (SBI) to release the unique identification numbers of electoral bonds that will reveal who donated to which political parties.

When Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, tried to intervene on behalf of ASSOCHAM, FICCI and CII, and the CJI said that the application was not numbered and listed for hearing, so the court would not entertain mentioning it out of turn. However, Rohatgi tried to press his petition, raising the question of how the information in electoral bonds can be disclosed when there was a guarantee of anonymity. CJI Chandrachud responded saying that the court ordered collection of details from April 2019 and everyone was put on notice at that time. 

During the hearing, advocate Mathews Nedumpara also interfered and said that the entire judgement in the electoral bonds case was delivered behind the back of the citizens. It is not clear who Nedumpara was representing but the court declined to hear him. In a heated exchange, the CJI told Nedumpara not to shout in the court, despite which he continued talking and the court threatened to issue a contempt notice.

Regarding SCBA President Aggarwala’s petition seeking suo motu review, the CJI said, “Mr.Aggarwala, apart from being a senior advocate, you are President of SCBA. You know the procedure. You wrote a letter to me. These are for publicity, let's leave it at it. I don't want to say more.”

The top court was hearing the State Bank of India (SBI) after it directed the bank last week to disclose the alphanumeric number corresponding to each electoral bond along with the details it had already furnished to the ECI, which has now been made public. On March 15, the court a five-judge Constitution bench comprising CJI, Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, reconvened to hear a petition filed by the ECI seeking the court to return the sealed envelopes that contained electoral bond details which were previously submitted. The ECI said that it did not maintain another copy for confidentiality. The court returned the documents after digitisation of the same and observed that the alpha-numeric numbers should be disclosed. The court then listed SBI in the case and posted the case for hearing on March 18.

Earlier, in its February 15 order, the Supreme Court told SBI to submit the details of donors, donation amounts, and recipients of electoral bonds and the political parties that encashed the bonds to the ECI before March 12. The SC also directed the ECI to publish these details on its official website by March 13.

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