Electoral Bonds : Need for Judicial Intervention – UPSC GS2

Read basics of Electoral Bonds from Prelims Notes.
Arguments against Electoral Bonds Scheme:
  • Anything but transparent:
    • Ensuring citizens have access to information is an essential feature of a democracy.
    • But the electoral bond scheme has tainted the democratic process, by destroying the notion of transparency in political funding.
  • No obligation on parties:
    • The parties and funding companies have no obligations to provide details to the public about the donations received or made by them through electoral bonds.
    • Companies are further under no obligation to disclose the name of the party who they have funded.
  • Weakened key restrictions:
    • Amendments removed a previous prohibition that disallowed a company from donating more than 7.5% of its net profits over preceding three years.
    • A mandate that a company should be in existence for at least three years before it could make donations, aimed at discouraging shell corporations from funnelling money into politics, was also lifted.
Government’s stand:
  • The donor will know which party he is depositing money to and the political party will file a return with the Election Commission.
  • Which donor gave to which political party is the only thing that will be anonymous.
  • Voters do not have a fundamental right to know how political parties are funded.
  • The scheme helps eliminate the role of black money in funding elections.
Court’s Stand:
  • According to the Court, since the transactions of the bonds are through banking channels, a person could look through every corporation’s financial statement available with the Registrar of Companies to know about the donations.
  • The Supreme Court has held that voters have the right to freely express during an election and are entitled to all pieces of information that give purpose to the right.
  • To participate in the electoral process in a meaningful way and to choose one’s votes, a citizen must be aware of the identity of those backing the candidates.
  • The affidavits filed by the Election Commission of India in the Supreme Court have demonstrated that the scheme, if anything, augments the potential role of black money in elections; it does so by removing existing barriers against shell entities.
Need for Judicial Intervention:
  • One of the important functions of an independent judiciary in a democracy is to check the fundamentals of the democratic process.
  • Governments derive their legitimacy from elections, and it is elections that grant governments the mandate to pursue their policy goals.
  • The electoral legitimacy of the government is questionable if the electoral process is questionable. And since the government itself cannot regulate the process that it is subject to every five years, the courts remain the only independent body that can adequately enforce the ground rules of democracy.
  • A delay in adjudication cannot be afforded as the integrity of the electoral process is at stake.

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