Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Is an Electoral Bond a way to bribe?

Amit Pandey

The discourse surrounding the Electoral Bond Scheme in India has been a subject of intense debate and scrutiny. The scheme, introduced by the Indian government in 2018, was intended to ensure transparency in political donations, allowing individuals and corporations to buy bonds from the State Bank of India (SBI) and donate them anonymously to political parties. However, the anonymity clause has raised concerns about the potential for misuse of funds and lack of accountability.

The entire fact that was submitted by the government side sounds like a surprise even an attorney solicitor told in Courtroom that citizens have no right to know regarding the embezzlement of electoral bounds while the country has RTI Act 2005. Three of the top five poll bond donors to political parties between 2019 and 2024 are companies that have bought bonds even as they face Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax probes. These include lottery company Future Gaming, infrastructure firm Megha Engineering and mining giant Vedanta.

The things very clear that the donors have their motive that cannot be solved without pocketing the government, and political parties, so they have donated. Now the question is what kind of favour they have gained to bribe the government? If they are not beneficiaries why they have done this? In our country, there is a law that says ” The board of Directors of a company may contribute to bonafide charitable and other funds: provided that prior permission of the company in general meeting shall be required for such contribution in case any amount the aggregate of which, in the financial year, exceed five per cent”, while the data is stating something other than law.

During the UPA government, a new policy called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was introduced, which required organizations to donate 2% of their total profits towards social causes. This initiative was aimed at encouraging corporates to contribute towards the betterment of society. Many companies willingly accepted this law and fulfilled their obligations.

However, it is quite bizarre to hear that some companies are fulfilling their CSR obligations while simultaneously facing investigations by central agencies for financial irregularities. This raises concerns about whether these donations are a way to directly bribe or extort officials. The irony lies in the fact that many individuals who have taken loans from banks have defaulted on repayments and have managed to escape the country. On the other hand, those who are still present in the country are demanding more credit from banks, all while making generous donations for electoral purposes.

This situation indicates that the government is obligated to cater to the demands of these individuals and companies as they are donating to the party in power. This creates a clear conflict of interest, as the government becomes dependent on these contributions to sustain itself. It is no wonder then that the saffron brigade, representing a certain political ideology, aspires to establish their governments in every state.

Such a scenario raises questions about the integrity and transparency of the system. It appears that vested interests are prevailing over the welfare of the general public. These incidents highlight the need for stricter regulations and mechanisms to ensure that CSR activities are genuinely aimed at social development, rather than serving as a means to secure favours or manipulate the system.

 The introduction of CSR under the UPA government was a step towards promoting corporate responsibility. However, the current scenario, where companies facing investigations are still able to fulfil their obligations, raises concerns about the underlying motives behind these donations. 

In the democratic fabric of India, political funding has always been a contentious issue, with the need for transparency often clashing with the desire for donor anonymity. The introduction of the Electoral Bond Scheme was a move by the government to address these concerns. However, the scheme’s implementation has led to a series of legal and ethical questions that challenge the very principles it seeks to uphold.

The Supreme Court of India’s intervention in the matter has been pivotal. In a landmark judgment, the court directed the SBI to disclose the details of electoral bond donors, thereby piercing the veil of anonymity that had shrouded the scheme. This decision was seen as a step towards enhancing transparency in political funding and ensuring that the electorate has access to information about the financial backers of political parties.

The controversy surrounding the scheme is further complicated by the involvement of high-profile businessmen like Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi, who have been implicated in significant financial scams. The alleged donation of funds to political parties through electoral bonds by such individuals raises questions about the integrity of the political funding process and the influence of money on policy-making.

The debate also extends to the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005, which was enacted to promote transparency and accountability in the workings of public authorities. Critics argue that the electoral bond scheme, by allowing anonymous donations, contravenes the spirit of the RTI Act and undermines the public’s right to know the sources of political funding.

The Narendra Modi-led government has defended the scheme, asserting that it brings transparency to political funding by routing all transactions through banking channels. However, the lack of disclosure of donor identities has led to accusations of opacity and has fueled suspicions of quid pro quo arrangements between donors and political parties.

The electoral bond scheme’s clash with the principles of transparency and the RTI Act highlights the complex interplay between the need for clean political funding and the protection of donor privacy. As the Supreme Court continues to deliberate on the matter, the future of the scheme and its impact on India’s democracy remains uncertain.

The Electoral Bond Scheme stands at a crossroads, with its fate hinging on the judiciary’s interpretation of the law and the government’s commitment to transparency. The resolution of this issue will not only shape the landscape of political funding in India but also reflect the country’s dedication to upholding democratic values and the rule of law.

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