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In Digital India, Why Does SBI Need 4 Months to Give Electoral Bond Donor Details?

Opposition leaders and the wider public are questioning SBI’s “dubious” plea for four months to give donor details, by which time the Lok Sabha election process would be over.
Opposition leaders and the wider public are questioning SBI’s “dubious” plea for four months to give donor details, by which time the Lok Sabha election process would be over.

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: Public sector banking major, State Bank of India (SBI), the sole handler of anonymous donations to political parties via the electoral bonds, seeking four months’ time from the Supreme Court to submit purchase details, has invited a lot of criticism and jibes.

After its February 14, 2024, order striking down electoral bonds as “unconstitutional” and stopping its sale with immediate effect, the apex court had asked SBI to submit all details, including names of purchasers, denominations of the purchases and names of political parties that have received contributions, to the Election Commission by March 6, which should publish it by March 13.

But SBI on Monday urged the SC to give it time till June 30, claiming that “decoding” data and matching donors to the donations is a “complex process”. This at a time when tall claims are being made on Digital India and ‘ease of doing business’ with one click of the mouse.

Incidentally, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the biggest beneficiary of this secretive scheme. Till the end of 2022-2023, of the total of Rs 12,000 crore coming through this scheme since its inception, Rs 6,500 crore went to BJP.

Opposition leaders and the wider public have questioned SBI’s need for four months, by which time the Lok Sabha election process would be over.

Accusing the Narendra Modi government of “using” SBI to hide its “dubious dealings”, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said in an X post that “Experts say that the 44,434 automated data entries of donors can be divulged and matched in just 24 hours, why does the SBI then need 4 more months, to collate this information?”

Aam Aadmi Party leader Saurabh Bharadwaj said on X: “Electoral Bonds - In this age, when everything is computerised, SBI needs 4 months more to give details for few handfull of Corporates who donated money to political parties (primarily BJP).”

In a series of post on X, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury questioned SBI’s plea to seek a date after the elections, saying it “smacks” of it defending “legalised political corruption,”

“If this is the case then why this plea by SBI to extend date to compile data already available till after elections? Smacks of obvious suspicious motivation to defend legalised political corruption favouring the ruling party BJP,” Yechury said, terming it a “travesty of justice.”

In a sarcastic comment, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut called for “punishing” SBI Chairman and Directors for “insulting” Modiji’s Digital India by asking for four months’ time.

Noted columnist Suhas Palshikar wondered if it “isn't it interesting that the SBI application from extension comes at the end of window given by SC, thus presenting the Court with fait accompli? Can/ will SC now simply send SBI top officials to jail for contempt? Surely not. Some rebuke. That's all.”

Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan found SBI’s move “as expected”. He wrote: “As expected, Modi Govt has filed an application thru SBI seeking time till beyond elections to disclose name of donors….So scared!”

Social activist Anjali Bhardwaj, while posting photos of SBI’s affidavit, pointed out that “donor names & redemption details of #ElectoralBonds are both available in SBI’s Mumbai Branch in sealed cover as per their affidavit, Why is SBI not disclosing these immediately?....”

Noted SC advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted that he had predicted “delay and digression by govt/sbi” on the day of the SC judgement.

Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra wrote on X“….Of course nationalised bank will bend over backwards to ensure BJP’s donor list not disclosed before elections…”

DMK leader and minister P Thiaga Rajan or PTR tweeted and termed it a “shameless farce” by the country’s largest bank, which spent Rs 1.5 crore on installing systems for electoral bonds.

So...after installing 1.5 Crores worth of systems for this explicit purpose, SBI cannot produce a list of donors and recipients in 3 WEEKS?? For SBI, this is a shameless be roundly condemned As a nation, it is a tragedy that its largest bank has sunk to such depths.”

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