SC Dismisses SBI's Electoral Bonds Plea, Asks for Disclosure Of Details By Tomorrow

In a landmark verdict delivered on February 15, a five-judge constitution bench scrapped the Centre’s electoral bonds scheme that allowed anonymous political funding
SC Dismisses SBI's Electoral Bonds Plea, Asks for Disclosure Of Details By Tomorrow
Jaano Junction

The Supreme Court on Monday junked the State Bank of India’s plea seeking an extension till June 30 to disclose details of each electoral bond encashed by political parties before the scheme was scrapped last month.

A five-member Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud asked the SBI to submit the required data within the close of March 12 (Tuesday) business hours. The court also asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to publish the details of the information supplied to the court as per the interim order on its website.

In a clear-cut warning to the SBI, the court said if the timeline was not adhered to, the court could issue contempt.

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SC Dismisses SBI's Electoral Bonds Plea, Asks for Disclosure Of Details By Tomorrow

Appearing on behalf of SBI, advocate Harish Salve told the court that there was an SOP in place that made sure that there was no name of the purchaser in our core banking system and the bond number.

“We were told that this was supposed to be a secret,” said Salve.

“Now, if you see the direction we have issued, we have not told you to do the matching exercise. We have directed a plain disclosure,” the court said.

“When the purchases were happening, we had divided the information,” said Salve.

“But ultimately all details were sent to the Mumbai main branch,” said CJI DY Chandrachud.

“The frequently asked questions (FAQs) you showed us during the hearing showed that each purchase required Know Your Customer (KYC) details,” said the CJI.

“We knew that it was sensitive information. A physical procedure was devised. Only the bond number was cleared and the bond number was used for further purchases. And it was done to prevent gossip. I have the full detail of who donated through EB, which is in one silo, I also have the data of which political party encashed, that is not a problem,” said Salve.

“In the last 26 days, how much of matching has been done,” asked the court. Responding to the court’s query, Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for SBI, said, “We can give the information on an affidavit.”

The court said, “You’re the top bank in the country. We expect you to handle it.”

“The list of FAQs on electoral bonds published by the SBI states Know Your Customer (KYC) documents must be submitted by the purchaser each time the bond is purchased irrespective of whether the purchaser has a KYC verified SBI account,” the court said.

“That is one set of documents (electoral bond application form, KYC documents, and pay-in-slip) can only be used to purchase one electoral bond. Contributors, who have an SBI account as well as those who don’t have to submit the EB application, KYC docs, and proof of payment through NEFT/Cheque/DD. Thus, the details of the bonds which have been purchased are readily available,” said the court while dictating the order.

The court said the crux of the SBI’s submission was that matching donor and receiver party information was a time-consuming process.

In a landmark verdict delivered on February 15, a five-judge constitution bench scrapped the Centre’s electoral bonds scheme that allowed anonymous political funding, calling it “unconstitutional” and ordered disclosure by the Election Commission of the donors, the amount donated by them, and the recipients by March 13.

The top court subsequently directed the SBI, the authorised financial institution under the scheme, to submit by March 6 the details of the electoral bonds purchased from April 12, 2019, till date to the Election Commission, which was asked to publish the information on its official website by March 13. On March 4, the SBI moved the apex court seeking an extension till June 30 to disclose the details of the electoral bonds encashed by political parties.

The SBI contended that retrieval of information from “each silo” and the procedure of matching the information of one silo to that of the other would be a time-consuming exercise. The application said due to stringent measures undertaken to ensure that the identity of the donors was kept anonymous, “decoding” the electoral bonds and matching the donors to the donations would be a complex process.

Source: News18

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