The Election Commission on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it had expressed its reservations on introduction of electoral bonds and the provision for non-disclosure of contributions as it felt would cast its shadow on transparency and accountability in political funding.
Citing its repeated insistence on the importance of the declaration of donations received by parties, the poll panel said that it had, in a communication on May 26, 2017, told the Law Ministry that non-disclosure of contributions received by parties through electoral bonds would prevent in ascertaining whether they had accepted any donation in violation of Section 29B of the Representation of People Act that bars receipt of such donations from government companies and foreign sources.
In an affidavit filed in the court, the poll panel said it had been relentlessly working towards curbing money power during elections and has time and again issued several instructions to candidates as well as to political parties to furnish correct information relating to donations received and expenditures made.
The poll panel’s stand came in response to a PIL by the Association for Democratic Reforms challenging the electoral bonds that were introduced by the Finance Act, 2017.
The Election Commission said that it had on March 15, 2017 written to the Law Ministry suggesting certain amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Representation of People Act.
And in its communication to the Ministry on May 26 that year, it had pointed that “certain provisions of the Finance Act, 2017 and the corresponding amendments carried out in the Income Tax Act, the Representation of People Act and the Companies Act will have serious repercussions/impact on the transparency aspect of political finance/funding of political parties.
Section 135 of the Finance Act, 2017 and the corresponding amendment to Section 31 of the Reserve Bank of India Act provided that the Central government can authorise any scheduled bank to issue electoral bonds.
The poll panel also noted that Section 137 of the Finance Act and the corresponding amendment to Section 29C of the Representation of People Act – which provides for declaration of donations received by political parties – says “… Nothing contained in this sub-section shall apply to the contribution received by way of electoral bonds.”