NEW DELHI, Oct 31: Advocate Prashant Bhushan sought scrapping of the Electoral Bonds by the Supreme Court, asserting that they were only bribes to influence the government decisions or policy decisions.
A five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Sanjeev Khanna, Justice BR Gavai, JP Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra is hearing the petitions challenging the validity of the electoral bond scheme as secret donations received by the political parties. The hearing will continue on Tuesday.
Those appearing in the case, besides Prashant Bhushan, are Attorney General R Venkataramani on behalf of the Centre and senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Vijay Hansaria.
Prashant Bhushan said, “The central ruling party has received more than 60 percent of the total contribution. Others have become unimportant. If a citizen has the right to know about the candidates, their assets, liabilities, their criminal history etc. then the citizens also have the right to know who is funding these political parties. “Parties also have rights under the 10th Schedule.”
He further said, “The government says that such a right is subject to reasonable restrictions but here the restrictions need to be reasonable in the first place. The Election Commission itself had said that this opens the possibility of using fake companies to donate to political parties. “Black money is coming to political parties through shell companies.”
Prashant Bhushan said, “Only SBI and law enforcement agencies will know about the source of funding and this completely takes away the rights of citizens. The Election Commission of India had expressed strong objection to this plan. ECI had said that this would have a serious impact on the transparency aspect of political funding. ECI said that as far as transparency is concerned, this is a retrograde step.
He further said, “These bonds are being given by the ruling parties through bribes and more than 50 percent is received only by the party in power at the Centre. Opposition parties get less than one percent. “This violates the level playing field between the ruling party and the opposition.”
Meanwhile, a lawyer appearing for the Election Commission said it collected sealed envelopes of donations from the political parties only in 2019 while the Court told him that the interim order applies to all years. In a written affidavit on Monday, the Attorney General had said identity of the donors will become public if the demand for disclosures of funds were accepted. Bhushan told the court, “More than 50 percent was obtained only by the ruling party at the center, and the rest was obtained only by the ruling party in the states, and the opposition parties did not obtain even one percent.” Those who are not in power.”
Almost all the bonds were bought by companies, Bhushan said, saying about 95 per cent of them were in denominations of Rs 1 lakh crore and above.
He emphasized that the Center has also removed the cap on corporate donations through this scheme and amended the FCRA. “It destroys and disrupts democracy in the country. Because it does not allow a level playing field between the ruling parties and opposition parties, or between political parties and independent candidates.”
Bhushan said there is circumstantial evidence to prove that political parties in power are receiving bribes from companies through electoral bonds.
Citing partisan audit reports of electoral bonds received by political parties, he said it was surprising that bribery was being legitimized through this scheme. He said that the total donations announced by the BJP are more than three times the total donations announced by all other political parties. The Supreme Court hears challenges to the constitutionality of the electoral bonds system.