Supreme Court Strikes Down Electoral Bonds Scheme as Unconstitutional

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Electoral Bonds Scheme as Unconstitutional

| Updated: February 15, 2024 11:23

The Supreme Court of India has declared the anonymous electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional, stating that it violates the Right to Information under Article 19(1)(a). The verdict was delivered by a five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra.

The bench unanimously held that political parties are relevant units in the electoral process and that information about their funding is essential for making electoral choices. The judgement included two separate opinions, one penned by CJI Chandrachud and the other by Justice Sanjiv Khanna.

The electoral bonds scheme, notified by the government on January 2, 2018, was initially introduced as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties in an effort to bring transparency to political funding. However, the Supreme Court has now ruled that there are other, less restrictive means to achieve this purpose, such as electronic transfers and electoral trusts.

The court further stated that the fundamental right to privacy includes a citizen’s right to political privacy and political affiliation. Information about a citizen’s political affiliation can lead to them being subjected to curbs or trolls, and can be used to disenfranchise voters through voter surveillance.

The court also found the amendment to Section 182 of the Companies Act to be arbitrary, as it treats companies and individuals alike, despite companies having a more significant influence on the political process. Contributions by companies were deemed to be purely business transactions.

The court ordered the issuing bank to immediately stop issuing electoral bonds and directed the State Bank of India (SBI) to submit details of the political parties which received electoral bonds to the Election Commission of India (ECI) by March 6. The ECI is then required to publish this information on its official website by March 13, and political parties are to refund the electoral bonds amount to the purchasers’ accounts.

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