New Delhi: The State Bank of India (SBI) has refused to disclose any communication it received from the government or the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on electoral bonds, terming it "personal information" and held in "fiduciary capacity".
Responding to an RTI filed by Pune-based activist Vihar Durve, who had demanded copies of all letters, correspondence, directions, notifications or e-mails received from the RBI or any government department between 2017 and 2019, the SBI said it cannot be provided by it.
The bank cited two exemption clauses under the RTI Act to deny information -- Section 8(1)(e) which pertains to information held in fiduciary capacity and Section 8(1)(J) which pertains to personal information of a person which has no link to any public activity.
"Information sought by the applicant cannot be disclosed as it is in fiduciary capacity, disclosure of which is exempted under Section 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005," the Central Public Information Officer of the bank said in his reply.
The bank also refused to give any details of action taken by it on such communications from the RBI and the government.
The electoral bonds, for giving donations to political parties, are being sold through SBI only. The sale opens in SBI branches when the Finance Ministry issues a notification of their sale for a given period.
The scheme of electoral bonds notified by the Centre in 2018 has been challenged in the Supreme Court.
Only the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than 1% cent of the votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the bonds.
The bonds may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India "or incorporated or established in India," the government had said in a statement last year.
The bonds remain valid for 15 days and can be encashed by an eligible political party only through an account with the authorised bank within that period only.
A voluntary group working in the field of electoral reforms, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), has demanded a stay on the sale while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has challenged it before the Supreme Court in separate petitions.
ADR recently filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018 which was notified by the Centre in January last year.