Centre Denies Citizens’ Right To Know Contributors To Electoral Bonds

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NEW DELHI, Oct 30: A day ahead of the Constitution Bench hearing on the electoral bonds, the Centre told the top court that the citizens do not have the fundamental right to be informed about the sources of the political funding as the electoral bond scheme extends the benefit of confidentiality to the contributor.

In a 4-page written submission, attorney general R Venkataramani said the scheme ensures tax obligations and so it does not fail foul of any existing right. A Constitutional court reviews state actions only if it impinges upon the existing rights and not because the state action has not provided for a possible right or an expectation however desirable,” the A-G submitted before a 5-judge Constitution bench.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra is to start hearing on Tuesday.

According to Venkataramani, the Electoral Bonds scheme does not impinge upon any existing right of any person and cannot be said to be repugnant to any right under Part III of the Constitution dealing with the fundamental rights.

“In the absence of such repugnance, the scheme will not be illegal. A law which is not so repugnant cannot be voided for any other reason. A law does not become void because it does not take cognizance of the possibility of an aspect being read into or treated as part of an enumerated right. Only existing rights need to be noticed, added the A-G.

Responding to a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) that have pressed for a right to have access to details of the contributions to the political parties, the Centre said that there can be no general right to know anything and everything without subject to reasonable restrictions.
Stressing that the EB case was not the one for “court-driven guidelines,” the A-G said these are highly debatable matters and cannot be subjected to simplistic statements without Parliamentary debates.

“The scheme under challenge is regulatory within the scope of Article 19(2) of the Constitution. It facilitates transfer of funds to political parties of one’s choice through banking channels instead of direct inter-party transfer and ensures transfer by requiring tax abidance. In this way, it is a departure from prevalent modes of contributions which were not regulated,” he added. Article 19(2) enumerates reasonable restrictions on an array of fundamental rights.

On October 16, the court referred the matter to a constitution bench of five judges, underscoring that the importance of the matter calls for setting up a larger bench to deliver an authoritative verdict. On a previous date of hearing on October 10, the court fixed October 31 and November 1 to finally hear the matter, clarifying that the arguments in the matter will be wrapped up over the two dates being fixed and directed the Centre and other parties to submit their written submissions in the meantime. The assignment of dates for the final hearing had come after a gap of more than two years as the last effective hearing of the matter had taken place in March 2021.