Electoral bonds case: SC asks SBI to disclose all details by March 21

This will include the alpha-numeric number and the serial number, if any, of the bonds purchased and received.
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
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The Supreme Court, on Monday, March 18, directed the State Bank of India (SBI)-- the sole issuer of electoral bonds -- to furnish ‘all details’ in terms of purchase and receipt of electoral bonds to the Election Commission of India. This will include the alpha-numeric number and the serial number, if any, of the bonds purchased and received. The court also came down upon the bank for not disclosing all the details despite its clear orders. The five-judge Constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud directed the bank to file an affidavit by 5 pm on Thursday, March 21, stating that SBI has disclosed all details of electoral bonds which were in its possession and custody and no details have been withheld. The ECI is also directed to upload these details on the website.

The bench, comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, was hearing the SBI on why the details were not disclosed. 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.

On March 15, the bench 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 to the court. 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.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for SBI, submitted that the details were disclosed based on the understanding of the top court's interim order in April 2019, which ordered collection of details pertaining to the donors and receivers of electoral bonds. Responding to this, the CJI said a final judgement was passed and that “SBI's attitude seems to be ‘You tell us what to disclose, we will disclose’. That does not seem to be fair.”

He further added, “When we say 'all details,' it includes all conceivable data. This interim order has merged with our final judgement. In the judgement, we had asked the State Bank of India to disclose 'all details.' That includes the bond numbers as well. The bank cannot be selective in disclosing all details. Do not wait for the orders of this court. We will clarify that and say that the State Bank of India will not only file the bond numbers but also ask it to submit an affidavit saying that it has not suppressed any details. The onus should not be on the court."  Salve submitted that the numbers available with the bank would be given to the ECI.

The apex court also 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 court also declined to hear a petition filed by SCBA President Adish Aggarwala who sought the CJI to invoke a suo motu review of the electoral bonds judgement.

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