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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Electoral Bonds and SBI’s Obligation

The recent tussle between the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Supreme Court over the disclosure of electoral bond details has once again brought into focus the intricacies of political financing in India. Amidst accusations of dilatory tactics and attempts to shield certain political entities from scrutiny, the SBI found itself compelled to comply with the apex court's directives, albeit under pressure. The heart of the matter lies in the transparency of electoral funding. While the breakup of electoral bond contributions has been made public, the absence of donor identities raises pertinent questions about the origins of these funds.

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The recent tussle between the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Supreme Court over the disclosure of electoral bond details has once again brought into focus the intricacies of political financing in India. Amidst accusations of dilatory tactics and attempts to shield certain political entities from scrutiny, the SBI found itself compelled to comply with the apex court’s directives, albeit under pressure. The heart of the matter lies in the transparency of electoral funding. While the breakup of electoral bond contributions has been made public, the absence of donor identities raises pertinent questions about the origins of these funds. The disproportionate share received by certain political parties, notably the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), raises concerns about undue influence and potential quid pro quo arrangements.

The revelation of donor identities is paramount in understanding the dynamics of political financing. If corporate entities dominate the donor list, it could signal vested interests, whereas a majority of individual citizens contributing might indicate genuine grassroots support. Such a proportionality analysis is critical, especially amidst perceptions of cozy relationships between the government and favored corporations. The complexity surrounding the disclosure of electoral bond details seems more manufactured than inherent. The SBI’s initial resistance, citing technical challenges in matching datasets, was swiftly debunked when the bank eventually provided the information in digital format. The claim of a Herculean task in processing 22,217 bonds appears unfounded in an era where advanced technologies can streamline even the most intricate tasks.

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Furthermore, the SBI’s reliance on provisions of the electoral bond scheme, despite its constitutional invalidation, raises questions about its sincerity in upholding transparency. Such maneuvers only serve to obfuscate rather than elucidate the process. While the onus lies on the Indian populace to draw their conclusions from the disclosed details, the Election Commission’s role in ensuring transparency remains questionable. The lack of support from the commission further underscores the importance of robust oversight mechanisms in upholding democratic principles. In light of these developments, it becomes imperative to revisit the observations made by former Chief Justice S A Bobde regarding the transparency of the electoral bond scheme. The assertion that the scheme is not as opaque as perceived underscores the need for greater accountability in political financing. Moving forward, there is a pressing need for comprehensive reforms to enhance transparency and accountability in electoral funding. Strengthening oversight mechanisms, ensuring timely disclosure of donor details, and fostering public trust in the electoral process are essential steps towards upholding the integrity of democracy.

The recent episode involving electoral bonds and the SBI highlights the inherent challenges in ensuring transparency in political financing. While significant strides have been made in disclosing contribution details, further reforms are necessary to address existing loopholes and uphold the principles of democracy. Only through concerted efforts can we safeguard the integrity of our electoral process and strengthen democratic institutions. It is imperative for regulatory bodies, such as the Election Commission, to assert their independence and actively pursue transparency in electoral funding. The Commission must take proactive measures to enforce compliance with disclosure requirements and hold accountable those who seek to circumvent them. Additionally, civil society plays a crucial role in advocating for greater transparency and accountability in political financing. Through sustained pressure and engagement, citizens can contribute to strengthening democratic norms and ensuring the integrity of electoral processes.

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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