National Telangana

‘Unconstitutional,’ says SC, strikes down electoral bonds scheme

The Supreme Court on Thursday, February 15, struck down the electoral bonds scheme terming it as unconstitutional. The apex court said that the scheme violates freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

It directed issuing banks to stop the issuance of electoral bonds. “Anonymous electoral bonds are violative of right to information, freedom of speech under Constitution,” said the Supreme Court.

Saying that financial contribution to a political party could lead to quid pro quo arrangements, Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said that the electoral bonds scheme by anonymizing contributions to the political parties infringes upon the right to information of the voter.

Pronouncing judgment on pleas challenging the validity of the electoral bonds scheme, CJI Chandrachud said, “There is also a legitimate possibility that financial contribution to a political party would lead to quid pro quo arrangements because of the closed nexus between money and politics. Quid pro quo arrangements could be in the form of introducing a policy change or granting a license to the person making a financial contribution to the political party in power. The electoral bond scheme and the impugned provisions to the extent that they infringe upon the right to information of the voter by anonymizing contributions through electoral bonds are violative of Article 19(1)(a).”

Saying that political contributions give a seat at the table to the contributor, i.e., it enhances access to legislators and this access also translates into influence over policy making, CJI Chandrachud added that the information of funding of political parties is essential for the effective exercise of the choice of voting.

“One of the factors contributing to political inequality is the difference in the ability of persons to influence political decisions because of economic inequality. Economic inequality leads to deferring levels of political engagement because of the deep association between money and politics,” he said.

In November 2023, a 5-judge Constitution Bench headed by CJI Chandrachud and comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, B.R. Gavai, J.B. Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra had reserved its verdict on pleas challenging the validity of the electoral bonds scheme after hearing the arguments for three days in a row.

Before the apex court, the petitioners argued that the Electoral Bond Scheme violates the citizen’s fundamental right to information under Article 19(1). It enables backdoor lobbying, promotes corruption, and eliminates a level playing field for political parties in the Opposition.

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