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Supreme Court Pulls Up SBI For Not Sharing Electoral Bonds’ Numbers

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court expressed dissatisfaction with the State Bank of India (SBI) on Friday for failing to provide Electoral Bonds data with unique alphanumeric numbers, essential for bond identification. Consequently, it issued a notice to the bank, seeking its response by Monday.

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra noted that the SBI had not fully complied with its March 11 directive, which mandated the disclosure of all Electoral Bonds details.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • In its order, the apex court emphasized, “The judgment of the Constitution Bench clarified that all details of Electoral Bonds will be made available including date of purchase, name of purchaser, the denomination. It’s been submitted that SBI has not disclosed the Electoral bond numbers (alphanumeric numbers).”
  • The bench directed, “Notice be issued to SBI. We direct Registry to issue notice to SBI returnable on Monday.”
  • Furthermore, the bench acceded to the Election Commission of India’s request to retrieve Electoral Bonds documents previously submitted to the court in sealed covers on two occasions.
  • The poll panel informed the bench that it had not retained any copies of these documents to maintain confidentiality and sought the return of the sealed envelopes to comply with the court’s directive to upload data on its website.
  • The apex court specified that its Registrar Judicial would oversee the scanning and digitization of documents. Once this process is completed, the original documents will be returned to the ECI, which will then upload them on the website on or before March 17.
  • At the commencement of the hearing, the apex court questioned, “Who is appearing for the State Bank of India? They have not disclosed the bond numbers. It has to be disclosed by the State Bank of India.” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urged the court to issue notice to the bank, as they might have pertinent information to offer.
  • In its February verdict, the Supreme Court had invalidated the Electoral Bonds Scheme, which permitted anonymous funding to political parties and directed the SBI to cease issuing Electoral Bonds immediately.
  • The court unanimously invalidated the Electoral Bonds scheme and amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Representation of People Act, which had facilitated anonymous donations.
  • It had instructed SBI to provide details about each Electoral Bond encashed by political parties, including the date of encashment and denomination of the electoral bond.
  • An Electoral Bond functions as an instrument akin to a promissory note or bearer bond, purchasable by individuals, companies, firms, or associations of persons, provided they are citizens of India or incorporated or established in India. These bonds are specifically issued for contributing funds to political parties.
  • Several petitions were lodged before the Supreme Court challenging amendments made to various statutes through the Finance Act 2017 and Finance Act 2016, contending that they had opened doors to unbridled, unchecked funding of political parties.

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