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     New Delhi, February 15, 2024: The Supreme Court of India today struck down the controversial electoral bond scheme that allowed anonymous donations to political parties, as unconstitutional, terming this as violative of right to information and freedom of speech.

     The five-judge Constitution bench, comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, delivered two separate but unanimous verdicts on pleas challenging the scheme.

     While Chief Justice DY Chandrachud delivered the lead judgement, Justice Sanjiv Khanna has given a concurring opinion with a slightly different reasoning.

     The Constitution Bench also quashed the amendments made to the Income Tax Act and the Representation of People Act which made the donations anonymous.

     An NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Congress leader Dr Jaya Thakur challenged the scheme of anonymous political donations, claiming it was infringing upon the voters’ right to information. 

     Pronouncing the verdict, the CJI said the scheme is violative of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of Constitution, media reports said.

     The electoral bond scheme, notified by the Centre on January 2, 2018, through which companies and individuals in India can donate to political parties anonymously.

     The court while rejecting the Centre’s submissions, held that the electoral bond scheme cannot be justified by saying that it will help curb black money in politics, the reports said.

     The apex court also directed the State Bank of India to furnish details of the electoral bonds received by political parties to the Election Commission of India and the Commission will subsequently publish the details on its official website by March 13, next, the reports added. 

     The Union government on the other hand defended the scheme by pointing out that anonymity in political donations is required to ensure that there is no apprehension of retribution from other political parties. It was also argued that the scheme ensures that ‘white’ money is used for political funding through proper banking channels.

     The landmark judgement will have wide ramifications as it ordered the SBI to disclose to the Election Commission the names of the contributors to the six-year-old scheme.

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