Transmit Details of Electoral Bonds by Tomorrow”: The Supreme Court Turns Down SBI’s Appeal

Transmit Details of Electoral Bonds by Tomorrow”: The Supreme Court Turns Down SBI’s Appeal

11 March 2024, New Delhi 

The Supreme Court of India today denied the State Bank of India’s (SBI) request for an extension of time to provide details of the electoral bond scheme, ruling that the bank must provide the information to the Election Commission of India (ECI) by tomorrow. By Friday at 5 p.m., the poll body is expected to post the information on its website.

Additionally, the government-run bank was cautioned by the court that if it fails to produce the material by tomorrow, it will be subject to contempt proceedings.

Before, the Supreme Court posed pointed questions and demanded to know what the bank had been up to over the last 26 days after considering SBI’s plea for an extension of time to submit information about the now-cancelled programme. In order to let it release the information by June 30, the SBI had asked the court for an extension.

In a historic ruling on February 15, the court threw out the electoral bonds programme and ordered the Election Commission to release the donation data by March 13.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), one of the petitioners who had contested the Narendra Modi government’s electoral bond plan in 2017, disagreed with the SBI’s request for additional time. According to the ADR, the plea was submitted at the last minute to make sure the information was kept confidential prior to the impending Lok Sabha elections.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, who appeared for SBI, stated that the bank had stored information about the electoral bond scheme outside of the central banking system in accordance with SOP. “To follow the directive, we require a little extra time. We have to go back and redo the entire process as we attempt to compile the information. This is meant to remain a secret; that’s what we, as a bank, were informed,” he stated.

In charge of the five-judge Constitution bench, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud stated that a submission had stated that donor information was stored in a bank branch in Mumbai under sealed cover.

“Just open the sealed cover, gather the details, and give the information,” remarked Justice Sanjiv Khanna.

“I have full details on who bought the bond, where the money came from, and which political party tendered how much,” Mr. Salve said. I now also have to include the buyers’ names. The names need to be compiled and verified against the bond numbers.

The argument made is that it takes a lot of time to match data between silos. You have not been requested to complete the matched task. Thus, to ask for more time and suggest that a matching exercise is necessary is not justified; we have not given you that instruction,” the Chief Justice declared, ordering the bank to abide by the ruling.

The Chief Justice then inquired about the bank’s activities in the 26 days following the ruling, pointing out that the bank had not supplied this information.

Kindly describe the matches you have made during the past 26 days. A certain level of transparency is anticipated from SBI on the completion of the assigned tasks, which have been completed,” he stated.

It will require an additional three months, according to Mr. Salve. “I cannot make a mistake; otherwise,  I will be sued by donors,” stated the donor. The senior attorney claimed that the procedure was set up to stop leaks.

In an affidavit, a senior SBI official requested changes to the Constitution bench’s ruling, as the Chief Justice pointed out. “This is a serious issue.”

The Supreme Court ruled on February 15 that the electoral bonds programme is “unconstitutional” and that it infringes on the right to knowledge of the people.