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Electoral Bonds

  • 21 Jan 2022
  • 5 min read

For Prelims: Electoral bonds

For Mains: Electoral bonds, Associated Issues Against the Electoral Bonds, Elections Funding, criminalization of politics.

Why in News

The 19ṭh tranche of electoral bonds, which have been pitched as an alternative to cash donations, were on sale, ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in five States.

  • In the past, the Supreme Court has raised the possibility of misuse of money received by political parties through electoral bonds.
  • This may defeat the original idea of the introduction of these bonds to bring transparency in electoral funding and keep a check on the criminalization of politics.

Key Points

  • About Electoral Bonds:
    • These bonds are issued in multiples of Rs. 1,000, Rs. 10,000, Rs. 1 lakh, Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 1 crore without any maximum limit.
    • State Bank of India is authorised to issue and encash these bonds, which are valid for fifteen days from the date of issuance.
    • These bonds are only redeemable in the designated account of a registered political party.
    • The bonds are available for purchase by any citizen of India for a period of ten days each in the months of January, April, July and October as may be specified by the Central Government.
    • A person being an individual can buy bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
    • The donor’s name is not mentioned on the bond.
  • Associated Issues:
    • A Blow to Democracy: Through an amendment to the Finance Act 2017, the Union government has exempted political parties from disclosing donations received through electoral bonds.
      • This means the voters will not know which individual, company, or organization has funded which party, and to what extent.
      • However, in a representative democracy, citizens cast their votes for the people who will represent them in Parliament.
    • Compromising Right To Know: The Indian Supreme Court has long held that the “right to know”, especially in the context of elections, is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression (Article 19) under the Indian Constitution.
    • Against Free & Fair Elections: While electoral bonds provide no details to the citizens.
      • The said anonymity does not apply to the government of the day, which can always access the donor details by demanding the data from the State Bank of India (SBI).
      • This implies that the government in power can leverage this information and disrupt free and fair elections.
    • Crony Capitalism: The electoral bonds scheme removes all pre-existing limits on political donations and effectively allows well-resourced corporations to fund elections subsequently paving the way for crony capitalism.

Way Forward

  • Transparency in Elections Funding: In many advanced countries, elections are funded publicly. This ensures principles of parity and there is not too great a resource gap between the ruling party and the opposition.
    • 2nd ARC, Dinesh Goswami committee, and several others have also recommended state funding of elections.
    • Further, until the elections do not get publicly funded, there can be caps or limits on financial contributions to political parties.
  • Judiciary Acting as an Umpire: One of the most critical functions of an independent judiciary in a functioning democracy is to referee the fundamentals of the democratic process.
    • Electoral bonds have raised questions on the electoral legitimacy of the government and thus the whole electoral process has become questionable.
    • In this context, the courts should act as an umpire and enforce the ground rules of democracy.
  • Transition Towards Civic Culture: India has been working well as a democracy for nearly 75 years.
    • Now in order to make the government more accountable, the voters should become self-aware and reject candidates and parties that violate the principle of free and fair elections.

Source: TH

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