ELECTORAL BOND SCHEME OF 2018
30/12/2020

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News
  • The Central Information Commission (CIC), statutory body for the implementation for the Right to Information Act (RTI), ruled that the disclosure of identity of Electoral Bond Scheme of 2018 donors will not serve any larger public interest and will violate provisions of the Act itself.
Issue
  • According to CIC, disclosure of names of donors and the donees may be in contravention of provisions contained in Section 8 (1) (e) (j) of the RTI Act itself, which exempt a public authority to give a citizen information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrant the disclosure of such information.
  • On the other hand, Section 8(2) directs that when public interest outweighs any harm to protected interests, the information sought for may be accessed. This Section begins with a non obstante clause. Therefore, it overrides the grounds erroneously relied upon by the CIC.
  • The public interest in the present matter is undisputable. In an earlier order, the CIC deemed political parties to be public authorities under the RTI Act. The funds received by political parties from donors would naturally be of interest to voters in order to understand their financing and functioning. Donations by corporate entities would also be of interest to their shareholders and potential shareholders.
  • Failure of the CIC is one of high public importance and resorting to technical objections defeats the objects of the RTI Act itself.
  • According to citizen groups, information of donors must be disclosed in the interest of transparency, accountability and efficient functioning of central investigating agencies.
  • Scheme is not transparent, promotes arbitrariness, illegal, and promotes the circulation of black money, money laundering, cross-border counterfeiting and forgery.
  • The scheme facilitates undisclosed quid pro quo arrangements between donors, who are likely to be corporates, and political parties. Such an arrangement goes against best practices of electoral democracy and is repugnant to the freedom of speech and expression.
  • In People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India (2003), the Supreme Court also held that the freedom of speech and expression also contained the fundamental right of a voter to secure information about the candidates who are contesting the election.
Conclusion
  • An unsettled law is as dangerous as bad law. The Court must conclusively settle the questions around the constitutionality of electoral bonds.

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