Supreme Court on Electoral Bonds

On 18th March 2024, the Supreme Court declined to oversee the disclosure of the details of the electoral bond from the first date of their allocation which was on 1st March 2018.

As of now, the Supreme Court has urged the State Bank of India (SBI) to publicize the information considering the bonds sold from the date of the court’s interim order on the 12th of April 2019 until it announced the scheme unconstitutional on the 15th of February. As per the interim order, a bench led by former Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had instructed all political parties to deliver all the details to the Election Commission of India (ECI) concerning the contributions obtained by them by way of electoral bonds.

A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud explained during the hearing that it was a 'conscious decision' driven by it to instruct the disclosure of electoral bond details from 12th April 2019. Clarifying the grounds for this judgment, Chief Justice Chandrachud stated that after the interim order of April 12th, 2019, every contributor was put on notice concerning a possible disclosure.

Addressing Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria, representing 'Citizens Rights Trust', a non-profit organization which pursued disclosure of details from March 2018, the chief justice stated the court had mandated the collection of details beginning from the 12th of April 2019. The order was publicized and everyone was put on notice at the time. The constitution bench had deliberately agreed not to raise a question for the disclosure of the bonds sold before the interim order was laid down.

The court also further stated that revising the date of the disclosure would sum up to a significant shift in the ruling, which cannot be overseen in a miscellaneous application. Eventually, this application was disregarded as unsanctionable.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Chandrachud earlier instructed Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi that he declined an application presented on behalf of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) against the disclosure of electoral bond numbers. The Chief Justice advised Mr. Rohatgi that everyone was notified about the interim order in April 2019, which oversaw the collection of details.

After the hearing, the court submitted an order that the SBI must deliver all information available about the bonds purchased after the 11th of April 2019. This contains the alphanumeric and serial numbers, if any. To bypass any disagreements in the future, the chairperson of the bank was instructed to file an affidavit within the given deadline which is before 5:00 PM on Thursday, March 21st noting that the SBI has revealed all appropriate details in its custody and has not withheld any details.

The bench also urged the Election Commission of India to post on its website the information obtained from the SBI instantly upon its receipt. 

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Image Reference: TOI


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