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Electoral Bonds: SC Dismisses SBI Plea for More Time, Asks it to Submit Details by March 12

The 5-judge constitution bench also cautioned the public sector bank of contempt of court in case it fails to comply with its direction.
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Image credit: PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition by the State Bank of India (SBI) seeking more time to furnish details of electoral bonds to the Election Commission (EC), and ordered it to do so by the close of business hours on March 12. The top court had set a deadline of March 6 in its order on February 15, which the bank missed and moved a petition seeking time till June 30.

 A five-judge constitution bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, Justices Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai, J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said: “Submissions of SBI in application indicate that info sought is readily available. Thus, the application by SBI seeking extension of time until June 30 is dismissed. SBI is directed to disclose the details by the close of business hours of March 12, 2024," the Court ordered, according to a report by Bar & Bench.

The bench also cautioned the public sector bank of contempt of court in case it fails to comply with its direction.

Read Also: Electoral Bonds: ADR Files Contempt Petition as SBI Misses SC's March 6 Deadline for Details

 “Though we are not exercising the contempt jurisdiction, we place SBI on notice that this court will proceed against it for wilful disobedience of court if it does not adhere to the directions issued by the court," the order said, as cited by Bar & Bench.

According to Live Law, CJI Chandrachud pulled up SBI for the delay in furnishing details.

“Our judgement is dated February 15. Today is March 11. In the last 26 days, what is the extent of matching done by you? The affidavit is silent on this. We expect a degree of candour from the State Bank of India,” he said, as per Live Law.

Reacting to SBI’s counsel Harish Salve’s plea for more time to match the details, the CJI said the court’s directions did not require a “matching exercise”, but a “plain disclosure” of the information already available with SBI.

The FAQs (frequently asked questions) indicated that for every purchase (of electoral bonds) there has to be a separate KYC (Know Your Customer). So, you have details already, said the CJI.

Justice Khanna added, “You have to just open the sealed cover, collate the details and give the information. ECI was asked to file details in a sealed envelope.”

Read Also; Electoral Bonds: 80 Retd Civil Servants Urge EC not to Announce 2024 Poll Dates Until SBI Furnishes Details

On February 15, the SC, had declared electoral bonds as unconstitutional and had ordered ceasing its sale with immediate effect. The judgement came after various petitions were filed as far as seven years ago.

Under the scheme, anonymous donations could be made to political parties after buying bonds from the only authorised bank, the SBI.

According to Association of Democratic Reforms, one of the key petitioners, the total number of electoral bonds worth Rs 12,008 crore sold between 2017-2018 and 2022-2023, the BJP received nearly 55% or Rs 6,564 crore. Congress received just 9.5% of all bonds sold in the five-year period at Rs 1,135 crore. The Trinamool Congress has received Rs 1,096 crore from electoral bonds in this same time period.

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