Electoral Bonds: What has Transpired so Far

Supreme Court's Directive: SBI Ordered to Disclose Electoral Bond Details
Electoral Bonds

Electoral Bonds

On March 18, the Supreme Court requested the head of the State Bank of India to submit a sworn statement confirming that the bank has shared all the necessary information about electoral bonds.

This request came from a panel of five top judges led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud. They also set a deadline for the submission of this statement by March 21.

The bank has been specifically asked to disclose details about electoral bonds, such as their unique alphanumeric numbers, from April 2019 till now. Additionally, the Election Commission of India has been instructed to promptly upload these details

Supreme Court's Directive for Transparency

The Supreme Court made it clear that the State Bank of India (SBI) must share all the information it has about electoral bonds, including their unique alphanumeric and serial numbers, if any. To prevent any future disputes, the court asked the bank's chairperson to submit a sworn statement by Thursday at 5 PM, confirming that all relevant details have been disclosed and nothing has been kept secret. The Chief Justice of India emphasised that the bank should be open and transparent without waiting for specific orders from the court.

Following this directive, SBI's shares experienced a decline, nearly reaching the lowest point of the day. Additionally, the court decided not to compel authorities to reveal details of electoral bonds bought and redeemed before April 12, 2019, dismissing a request for such information.

During the hearing, senior advocate Harish Salve, representing SBI, informed the court that although SBI was willing to share the electoral bond details, they had interpreted the order differently. The Chief Justice of India emphasised that SBI should not pick and choose what to disclose and should be forthcoming without waiting for specific orders from the court.

This discussion arose because the Supreme Court had previously issued a notice to SBI on March 15 for failing to provide alphanumeric numbers on the bonds to the poll panel despite a previous judgment instructing them to do so.

The Electoral Bonds Issue

In February 2024, the Supreme Court ruled electoral bonds unconstitutional, citing that hiding information about political party funding goes against citizens' right to know. The court ordered SBI to share all electoral bond data.

However, on March 4, SBI requested an extension until June 30 to reveal details of bonds cashed by parties. The court denied this, telling SBI to give all details to the EC by March 12, and the EC to publish them by March 15.

SBI had said it needed time to match donors with parties, but the court clarified this wasn't necessary. SBI provided the details on March 12, and on March 14, the EC published them.

On March 17, the Election Commission of India (ECI) shared more details about the electoral bonds, including how much each political party redeemed. This info came after the Supreme Court ordered the release of all bond details that ECI had given to the court back in November 2023.

Electoral Bonds Data

The Election Commission has shared detailed data on electoral bonds from the State Bank of India (SBI) on its website, following the Supreme Court's deadline. The info discloses notable buyers, including big names like steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, Airtel's Sunil Bharti Mittal, Vedanta, ITC, and Mahindra and Mahindra.

Also, Future Gaming and Hotel Services, a lesser-known entity under Enforcement Directorate scrutiny, surfaced as a major buyer with over Rs 1,350 crore in electoral bonds.

Among well-known companies, Vedanta Ltd, owned by Agarwal, bought bonds worth Rs 398 crore, while Sunil Mittal's three companies collectively purchased Rs 246 crore worth of bonds. Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, a steel magnate, bought bonds worth Rs 35 crore individually. Megha Engineering, based in Hyderabad and involved in significant infrastructure projects, purchased bonds worth Rs 966 crore.

Political parties that cashed in electoral bonds include BJP, Congress, AIADMK, BRS, Shiv Sena, TDP, YSR Congress, DMK, JD-S, NCP, Trinamool Congress, JDU, RJD, AAP, Samajwadi Party, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, BJD, Goa Forward Party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, JMM, Sikkim Democratic Front, and Jana Sena Party.

Several notable companies participated in purchasing electoral bonds, reflecting diverse sectors. These included Spicejet, IndiGo, Grasim Industries, Megha Engineering, Piramal Enterprises, Torrent Power, Bharti Airtel, DLF Commercial Developers, Vedanta Ltd., Apollo Tyres, Edelweiss, PVR, Keventer, Sula Wines, Welspun, Sun Pharma, Vardhman Textiles, Jindal Group, Phillips Carbon Black Limited, CEAT tyres, Dr Reddy's Laboratories, ITC, Kaypee Enterprises, Cipla, and Ultratech Cement.

Total Donors: A total of 213 donors purchased electoral bonds worth more than Rs 10 crore.

Important Electoral Bond Purchases

  • Lakshmi Mittal, a steel magnate, bought bonds valued at Rs 35 crore.

  • Vedanta Ltd invested Rs 398 crore in bonds.

  • Bharti Airtel's three companies collectively purchased bonds worth Rs 246 crore.

  • Future Gaming and Hotel Services emerged as a major buyer, acquiring bonds worth over Rs 1,350 crore.

  • Megha Engineering, engaged in significant infrastructure endeavours, purchased bonds totalling Rs 966 crore.

Individual Donors

  • Kiran Mazumdar Shaw made contributions through electoral bonds.

  • Varun Gupta contributed through electoral bonds.

  • B K Goenka donated via electoral bonds.

  • Jainendra Shah participated in electoral bond donations.

  • Monika (First Name Only) also donated through electoral bonds.

Individual Purchases

  • Yashoda Super Speciality Hospital in Ghaziabad bought 162 bonds, mostly valued at Rs 1 crore each.

  • Bajaj Auto acquired bonds worth Rs 18 crore.

  • Bajaj Finance purchased bonds worth Rs 20 crore.

  • Three firms affiliated with IndiGo collectively bought bonds worth Rs 36 crore.

  • Spicejet purchased bonds worth Rs 65 lakh.

  • Rahul Bhatia of IndiGo bought bonds worth Rs 20 crore.

  • Qwik Supply Chain Pvt Ltd, based in Mumbai, bought bonds worth Rs 410 crore.

  • Haldia Energy acquired bonds worth Rs 377 crore.

Top Corporate Purchases

  • Future Gaming and Hotel Services: Rs 1,368 crore

  • Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd: Rs 966 crore

  • Vedanta Ltd: Rs 400 crore

  • Bharati Group: Rs 247 crore

  • Essel Mining and Industries Ltd: Rs 224 crore

  • Western UP Power Transmission: Rs 220 crore

  • Keventer Foodpark Infra Ltd: Rs 194 crore

  • Madanlal Ltd: Rs 185 crore

  • DLF Group: Rs 170 crore

  • Utkal Alumina International: Rs 145.3 crore

  • Jindal Steel and Power Ltd: Rs 123 crore

  • Birla Carbon India: Rs 105 crore

  • Rungta Sons: Rs 100 crore

  • Dr Reddy's: Rs 80 crore

  • Piramal Enterprises Group: Rs 60 crore

  • Navyuga Engineering: Rs 55 crore

  • Shirdi Sai Electricals: Rs 40 crore

  • Cipla Ltd: Rs 39.2 crore

  • Lakshmi Niwas Mittal: Rs 35 crore

  • Grasim Industries: Rs 33 crore

  • Jindal Stainless: Rs 30 crore

  • Bajaj Auto: Rs 25 crore

  • Sun Pharma Laboratories: Rs 25 crore

  • Mankind Pharma: Rs 24 crore

  • Bajaj Finance: Rs 20 crore

  • Maruti Suzuki India: Rs 20 crore

  • Ultratech: Rs 15 crore

  • TVS Motors: Rs 10 crore

  • Edelweiss Group: Rs 4 crore

According to SBI, a total of 22,217 electoral bonds were purchased between April 1, 2019, and February 15, 2024, with most being redeemed by political parties.

Enhancing Transparency in Political Funding

The Supreme Court instructed the SBI to share detailed information with the Election Commission, aiming to make political funding more transparent and accountable. SBI provided data on electoral bonds, including purchaser details, encashment dates, and recipient political parties, as directed by the Supreme Court on February 15 and March 11, 2024.

The Election Commission promptly uploaded this data onto its website, aligning with its stance on transparency and disclosure. According to a report by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), electoral bonds worth Rs 16,518 crore were sold between March 2018 and January 2024.

The BJP received the highest contributions, amounting to Rs 6,566 crore, followed by the Congress and Trinamool Congress. This initiative aims to make political contributions more transparent, traceable, and accountable.

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