The Supreme Court on Friday, March 26, refused to stay the sale and purchase of electoral bonds from April 1, ahead of assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory -- West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, reported Livemint.
The top court said that fresh electoral bonds can be issued from 1 April.
Electoral bonds are financial instruments that political parties use to collect funding, with their buyer remaining anonymous and transactions allowed only through the State Bank of India. Electoral bonds were introduced by the Modi government in 2018 as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties.
The court said since bonds were allowed to be released in 2018 and 2019 without interruption, there is no justification to stay the electoral bonds at present when there are sufficient safeguards. It is not only the ruling party that is always the beneficiary of electoral bonds, the court said.
The court said the electoral bonds had been issued several times before and there is no evidence that has brought about its adverse impact on elections.
The SC Bench, including CJI SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, dismissed the plea filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking a stay of electoral bonds ahead of assembly polls. The plea filed by the NGO also sought a ban on the bonds till matters concerning parties' funding and transparency of incomes were sorted out.
Appearing for ADR, Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan had said that the instrument had turned into a tool for receiving bribes in the garb of donations for the ruling party. Bhushan also cited the Reserve Bank of India's misgivings about it.
"The RBI has said that this system of bonds is a type of weapon or medium for financial scams," Bhushan argued.
Bhushan also said that electoral bonds were proof of the government's real approach to black money as contrasted with its official stance.
Earlier, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had said that the sale of electoral bonds was announced after getting permission from the Election Commission of India.
"The Election Commission is supporting electoral bonds or we will go back to the pre-existing situation of donations coming in by cash," senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, for the poll body, said.
Meanwhile, the centre has shelled out Rs 4.10 crore to the State Bank of India as a commission for the sale of electoral bonds to donors of political parties. This is in addition to the Rs 1.86 crore spent on printing these bonds.