Electoral Bonds case: Contempt plea filed against SBI for not furnishing details on time

Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), in its contempt petition said that SBI is deliberately defying the court’s order and that it is an “attempt to thwart” the transparency efforts ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
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A contempt petition has been filed at the Supreme Court against the State Bank of India (SBI) for seeking more time to furnish details regarding Electoral Bonds. The petition, filed by  Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), stated that the bank had not complied with the top court’s order of disclosing the Electoral Bonds details to the Election Commission of India (ECI) before March 6. SBI, who is the issuer of electoral bonds, has submitted a petition at the SC seeking extension of time till June 30. The Supreme Court struck down the electoral bonds scheme, calling it ‘unconstitutional’, in February.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, on February 15, directed bank to submit the details of buyers of electoral bonds and the political parties that encashed the bonds to ECI before March 6, 2024, and directed the ECI to publish these details on its official website by March 13, 2024. On March 5, the SBI moved the SC seeking time extension citing “practical difficulties”, pertaining to the complexity of decoding and compiling data from the bond sale. The case is likely to be listed for hearing on March 11.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing ADR, meanwhile sought an urgent hearing for the contempt petition and asked the court to list it along with the SBI petition. CJI Chandrachud has asked Bhushan to send an email request with the details of the application number, LiveLaw reported.

ADR, in its contempt petition, said that SBI deliberately defying the court’s order is in contempt of court. It also alleged that the delay is an “attempt to thwart” the transparency efforts ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, and argued that SBI has the necessary infrastructure to compile the information.

The five-judge constitution bench, also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, deemed the electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional and struck it down, on February 15. The bench issued five directions:

- SBI should immediately stop issuing electoral bonds.

- SBI should submit the details of electoral bonds that were purchased since April 12, 2019, till date to the ECI before March 6. In April 2019, the Supreme Court had passed an interim order directing all parties to submit the details of donations received through electoral bonds to the ECI in a sealed cover. These details shall include date of purchase, name of purchaser, and denomination of electoral bonds that were purchased.

- SBI should submit the details of all political parties that have received contributions through electoral bonds since April 12, 2019, till date to ECI. These details shall include details of each electoral bond encashed by political parties with dates of encashment and denomination of the bonds. This should also be done before March 6.

- ECI should publish all these details on its official website before March 13.

- Electoral bonds within the validity period of 15 days, which are not encashed by political parties yet, shall be returned to the bank, who will then return it to the purchaser.

The Electoral Bond scheme was introduced in 2017 through the Finance Act, which was passed as a money bill without the assent of the Rajya Sabha. It is similar to promissory notes and allows donors to buy these bonds from the SBI and donate anonymously to political parties. These bonds will not have the donor’s name and neither are political parties required to disclose the source of these bonds.

Read: Electoral bonds verdict: Four major points on which SC disagreed with the Union govt

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