Electoral Bonds case: SC dismisses SBI’s plea seeking time extension, directs disclosure by March 12

Supreme Court of India. [File Photo]

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed an application of State Bank of India (SBI) seeking an extension of time till June 30 to submit details of Electoral Bonds to the Election Commission of India and asked the bank to disclose the details by March 12, ANI reported.

A Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and including Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, has issued directives to the State Bank of India (SBI) to disclose relevant details by March 12.

The Supreme Court has also mandated the Election Commission of India (ECI) to compile and publish the information provided by the SBI on its official website no later than March 15, 2024, at 5 pm.

Despite the initial deadline set by the apex court for the SBI being March 6, the bank’s request for an extension until June 30 was dismissed. The court emphasised that the information sought is readily available. Additionally, the bench issued a caution to the SBI about potential contempt of court if it fails to adhere to the specified timelines.

The court’s directions are related to the disclosure of details regarding Electoral Bonds, and the SBI faces a contempt petition for non-compliance from entities such as the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Common Cause, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

During the hearing, the SBI cited practical difficulties in conducting decoding and matching exercises. In response, the Chief Justice pointed out that the court’s directive was for a straightforward disclosure, not a complex matching exercise. The court highlighted that the SBI possesses the necessary details, as evidenced by its KYC records.

The Supreme Court had initially invalidated the Electoral Bonds Scheme, which allowed for anonymous funding to political parties. The court ordered the immediate cessation of Electoral Bond issuance by the SBI.

In its unanimous decision, the bench rejected the scheme, amendments to the Income Tax Act, and the Representation of People Act. The court specifically instructed the SBI to provide details on each electoral bond encashed by political parties.

Electoral Bonds, serving as instruments for political funding, had faced legal challenges through various petitions. Critics argued that statutory amendments in Finance Acts 2016 and 2017 had opened doors to unlimited and unchecked funding of political parties, leading to concerns about transparency and accountability in the political financing system.

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