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Majority of anonymous financial contributions through electoral bonds were made to parties in power: Supreme Court

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising CJI D. Y. Chandrachud, Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra pronounce the judgement on the petitions challenging the Electoral Bonds Scheme on February 15, 2024.

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising CJI D. Y. Chandrachud, Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra pronounce the judgement on the petitions challenging the Electoral Bonds Scheme on February 15, 2024.
| Photo Credit: ANI

The Supreme Court on Thursday analysed in its judgment that the majority of the anonymous financial contributions through electoral bonds were made to political parties in power and the biggest gainer was the ruling BJP.

In his separate opinion, Justice Sanjiv Khanna analysed the audit reports of political parties from 2017-2018 to 2022-2023. Justice Khanna’s data showed that the BJP got ₹210 crore in 2017-2018 at the start of the scheme and raked in ₹1,294.14 crore by 2022-23. The Indian National Congress is far below at ₹171.02 crore while the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) received ₹325 crore and the DMK ₹185 crore in 2022-2023.

“It is clear that majority of contributions through bonds went to ruling political parties in the Centre and the States,” Justice Khanna observed.

The judge also gave details of the denomination-wise sale of electoral bonds during 27 phases from March 2018 to July 2023.

Justice Khanna said over 50% of the bonds sold were in the one crore denomination during this period. The total amount received from the sale of electoral bonds was ₹13,791.89 crore.

“Data show that more than 50% of the bonds in number, and 94% of the bonds in value terms were for ₹one crore. This is indicative of the quantum of corporate funding through the anonymous bonds,” the judge noted.

The share of income from unknown sources for national parties rose from 66% in 2014-15 to 2016-17 to 72% during the years 2018-19 to 2021-22. Between the years 2019-20 and 2021-22 the bond income was 81% of the total unknown income of national parties, Justice Khanna said.

Also Read | Political influence of money not limited to poll outcomes but extends to government decisions: Supreme Court

Right to know

The judge agreed with the lead opinion of the Chief Justice that voters’ right to know superseded anonymity in political party funding.

Justice Khanna said there was an inherent contradiction in the argument raised by the Centre that anonymity protected donors from political retribution, victimisation or retaliation.

The judge reasoned that if the majority of contributions went to ruling parties, there was no cause for political retribution.

Secondly, restricting a donor from contributing to a political party of her choice was an abuse of law and power.

“The inconsistency is also apparent as the change in law, by giving a cloak of secrecy, leads to severe restriction and curtailment of the collective’s right to information and the right to know, which is a check and counters cases of retribution, victimisation and retaliation. Transparency and not secrecy is the cure and antidote,” Justice Khanna held.

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