Electoral Bonds: In 2018, Union Govt Had Said Hidden Code 'Not Noted by SBI'

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Electoral Bonds: In 2018, Union Govt Had Said Hidden Code ‘Not Noted by SBI’

| Updated: March 26, 2024 13:09

Transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj has pointed out that this claim is directly contrary to the data released by the SBI after the SC order.

New Delhi: Days after the State Bank of India released data on electoral bonds after Supreme Court orders, transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj has noted that the data shows that the invisible alphanumeric codes on each bond slip was tracked by the SBI – contrary to what the Narendra Modi government had explicitly claimed.

In theory, electoral bonds allowed companies or individuals to contribute to political parties anonymously. However, instances of connections between companies contributing large amounts to parties and securing contracts or facing action from government departments have been pointed out since SBI released the data – leading many to note that the government may have been privy to donor information.

In 2018, journalist Poonam Agarwal had reported that unique alphanumeric codes invisible to the naked eye but visible under ultraviolet rays are present on electoral bonds.

The Union home ministry then had released a statement noting that the numbers are not linked to transactions and cannot be used to track the transactions.

The government claimed that the number is part of a security feature put in place to eliminate forgery.

Crucially, the government noted that the number “is not noted by SBI in any record associated with the buyer or political party depositing a particular electoral bond.”

“It is thus not linked to any party transaction when the bank issues a bond to the buyer. As such the number is not being used or can be used to track the donation or the buyer,” the statement said.

“SBI does not share the number with anybody, including government and users,” the statement also added.

As Anjali Bhardwaj’s post on X notes, now SBI data shows that the code was not only tagged with buyer and receiver information but that it could be expressly used to track both and match a receiver to the buyer.

“Need full inquiry in electoral bonds scam,” Bhardwaj noted.

In the PDF uploaded by the Election Commission, of data released by the SBI, there is a ‘prefix’ and a ‘bond number’ which unite to reveal the alphanumeric number.

Earlier, former finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg had told Indian Express that by recording the alphanumeric codes of the bonds sold to donors and encashed by political parties, the bank had “hit at the basic feature of the scheme that was brought in by the government” to enable anonymous political donations.

This article was originally published on The Wire on March 26, 2024.

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