In an interim reprieve to government, Supreme Court refused to stay the electoral bond scheme but directed parties to furnish details of their electoral bonds to the Election Commission (EC) in sealed covers. On Thursday, Attorney-General KK Venugopal had questioned the need for voters to know source of political funds. Venugopal also cited right to privacy and fear of victimisation to justify anonymity for donors. The specious nature of Venugopal's arguments ought to be embarrassing for the government itself.
The opacity of electoral bonds can allow crony capital as well as foreign interests to influence policymaking while staying hidden from public view. Amendments in Companies Act scrapped the ceiling that restricted companies to donating up to 7.5% of average profit over past three years and without requiring disclosure to shareholders. A Foreign Contribution Regulation Act amendment allows foreign companies registered in India to indirectly purchase electoral bonds. These provisions thus open doors for shell companies and adversary nations in Delhi and even state capitals.
Amendments in the Income Tax Act and Representation of People Act preclude companies and parties from disclosing electoral bond donations to I-T department and EC respectively. The multiple layers of concealment are nothing short of a scandal. SC must commence the detailed hearings without delay: the petition was pending since February 2018. The loophole allowing political parties cash and anonymous donations must be plugged if the war on black money is sincere. Failure of opposition parties to join CPM in approaching SC is strange and shows up the bankruptcy of India's political class. Perhaps they are tempted by the thought of having friends with benefits when they come to power too. SC must act urgently to protect Indian democracy and even Indian sovereignty.
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