On Wednesday, the Election Commission, which opposed the anonymous election bonds in an affidavit in 2017, told the Supreme Court that it was not against the bonds themselves, but opposed the bond donor and redeemer’s principle of anonymity. India’s Chief Justice (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi quoted many sections in the affidavit of the Election Commission (EC) and asked counsel from the EC to double- check what he said. 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 Supreme Court hearing on the issue of electoral bonds, the EC informed the court of its opposition to the anonymous electoral bonds, citing its affidavit filed with the Ministry of Law in 2017. In the affidavit, the EC called a retrograde step the introduction of electoral bonds. The poll panel expressed concern about donor identity non-disclosure and clauses that may allow shell companies and foreign entities to fund and influence Indian political parties and elections. However, the government contended before Wednesday’s apex court that donor anonymity in the event of election bonds is to prevent donor political victimization.
Magistracy General (AG) K.K. In his submission, Venogopal said: “Electoral bonds are meant to eradicate black money in political financing… because we don’t have state financing for elections. Political parties get money from supporters, wealthy people, etc. The funders all want their political party to come to power. But if their party doesn’t, repercussions could take place…. so secrecy is required.” For example, if a particular company funds a political party and there is no power, its own shareholders could punish the company.
In reality of course, the donations made through election bonds are white money, the AG said, adding that if agencies are willing to track down the source of money, they can scrutinize it through banking channels. Although the government is in favor of electoral bonds being anonymous, the EC has a contrary view, the EC counsel said. “We’re not against electoral bonds. We’re just against the associated anonymity,” he said. The EC emphasized that it wants transparency in political funding, while it is essential for democracy to disclose the identity of both funders and funding recipients. “People have the right to know their representatives ‘ background and the political party represented by the candidate,” said the EC counsel.