On April 11, the Supreme Court will determine whether to send the issue of electoral bonds to the Constitution bench
On April 11, the Supreme Court will decide whether to submit petitions contesting the legality of the disputed electoral bond program to a Constitution bench after the petitioners said the issue of political party finance goes to the heart of the nation's democratic system.
The applications were considered by a bench comprising the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, and judge PS Narasimha on Tuesday, but the hearing was postponed after the Union government asked for more time to respond to the several petitions that questioned the program.
A non-profit organization called Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) submitted the case's first petition in 2017, which was followed by several more applications from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Congress leader Jaya Thakur, and other parties.
CPI(Mattorney, )'s Shadan Farasat, requested the court to think about submitting the case to a Constitution bench with at least five judges. He stated: "This problem undermines the democratic polity and financing of political parties and demands an authoritative declaration by a Constitution bench." He then posed seven issues of fundamental constitutional significance that arose in the case.
Dushyant Dave, a senior advocate for ADR, endorsed Farasat. When the bulk of funding are flowing to just one political party, the problem Dave and I have highlighted goes to the heart of how a democracy works, David stated.
The court must decide whether a person has a right to know about the financing of political parties under Article 19(1)(a) in the note filed by Farasat. If so, whether the electoral bonds program's limitations on this right are acceptable given that, according to Article 19(1)(a), the government may only restrict this right for reasons allowed by the Constitution. They include the sovereignty and integrity of India, state security, cordial ties with other nations, and public order, morality, and laws against contempt, defamation, and encouragement to commit crimes.
The letter contended that because political party finance is essential to a democracy's operation and "democracy" and "free and fair elections" are fundamental components of the Constitution, the issue created constitutional relevance problems.
The bench promised to publish it on April 11th. "We may choose whether to send the case to a constitution bench on that day." The government was given permission by the court to submit its reply before the subsequent hearing date.
2018 saw the implementation of the electoral bond program as a means of financing politics. The contributors' identities are concealed under the plan. The State Bank of India issued the bonds, and corporate and even international businesses are completely free from paying taxes on contributions made under this program.
The Centre requested further time to evaluate the pleas in the supplemental petitions even though it had already submitted its answer to the ADR petition.
From the program's establishment, ADR has opposed it, arguing that the anonymous fundraising method "legitimizes bribery" by allowing corporations to provide money to the party in power in a state or at the federal level in exchange for favors.
ADR filed proceedings to oppose any new opening of the window for sale of these bonds prior to assembly elections while the issue was still unresolved and there was no stay in place regarding the sale of electoral bonds.
The highest court ordered all political parties to provide the Election Commission with information about the receipts of the electoral bonds in a sealed cover by April 2019. This was done as a temporary measure prior to the ultimate determination of the petitions regarding the legality of the bonds.
The Election Commission backed the program and has already provided the court with documentation in sealed covers detailing the receipt of donations by different political parties.
Between 2017–18 and 2020–21, political parties got $6,500 billion under the program, with almost $4,238 billion going to the Bharatiya Janata Party, claims ADR. In 2021–2022 over 2,700 crore in contributions were made via electoral bonds, of which the BJP collected 1,033 crore.