EC opposes anonymity of donors in electoral bonds, emphasises on transparency in political funding

The Election Commission, which opposed the anonymous electoral bonds in an affidavit in 2017, on Wednesday, told the Supreme Court that it is not against the bonds themselves, and, instead, opposes the principle of anonymity of the bond donor and redeemer.

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi cited many sections in the Election Commission (EC) affidavit and asked the EC’s counsel to double-check on what he was saying.

In his reply, the EC counsel insisted that he is absolutely sure that the Commission is not against electoral bonds, but is opposed to the veil of anonymity associated with such bonds.

During a recent hearing on the electoral bonds issue in the Supreme Court, the EC informed the court regarding its opposition to the anonymous electoral bonds and cited it’s affidavit filed with the Law Ministry in 2017.

In the affidavit, the EC termed introduction of electoral bonds a retrograde step. The poll panel expressed concern over the non-disclosure of donor identity and clauses that may allow for shell companies and foreign entities to fund and influence Indian political parties and elections.

The government, however, contended before the apex court on Wednesday that the anonymity of the donor in case of electoral bonds is to prevent political victimisation of the donor.

Attorney General (AG) K.K. Venugopal in his submission said: “Electoral bonds are meant to eradicate black money in political funding…as we have no State funding of elections. Political parties get funds from supporters, affluent persons, etc. The funders all want their political party to come to power. But if their party does not, then there could be repercussions….so secrecy is required.”

The government informed the Supreme Court that many companies prefer anonymity for various reasons. For example, if a particular company funds a political party and it does not come power, the company could be punished by their own shareholders.

The donations made through electoral bonds are actually from white money, the AG said, adding that if agencies are willing to ascertain the source of money, they can scrutinize it through banking channels.

Though the government is in favour of anonymity in electoral bonds, the EC has an opposite view, the EC’s counsel said.

“We are not against electoral bonds. We are only opposed to the anonymity associated with it”, he said.

The EC emphasised that it wants transparency in political funding, while the disclosure of the identity of the funders as well as the recipients of funding is essential for democracy.

“People have the right to know about the antecedents of their representatives and the political party that candidate represents”, the EC counsel said.

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