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The Electoral Bonds scheme, notified by the Union Government on January 2, is a clever step towards emaciating the opposition parties. Neither will it lead to greater transparency in the funding of political parties (as claimed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley) nor will it check the flow of black money into the electoral process. Even Election Commission has expressed apprehensions at the move. The scheme was mischievously included in the 2017-2018 budget proposals.

According to the notification, only the State Bank of India (SBI) can issue the Electoral Bonds  in the denominations of Rs 1000, Rs 10,000, Rs one lakh, Rs ten lakh and Rs one crore. A total of 53 branches of SBI have been authorised to sell the Bonds – one branch in the capitals of all the States and Union Territories – more than one branch in some States. An individual or body can purchase these Bonds from the designated branches after fulfilling the KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements. However, the Bonds will not carry the name of the purchaser.

The byer can donate these Bonds to a political party which is registered with the Election Commission and has received not less than one per cent of the votes in the last Lok Sabha or Assembly election. The party can encash the Bonds only by depositing these in its bank, registered with Election Commission, within 15 days after the issuance of the Bond. If not deposited within 15 days, the amount of the Bond will go to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

Jaitley told Lok Sabha on January 2 that ‘the element of transparency is that the balance sheet of donors will reflect that they have bought a certain amount of Bonds and political parties will also file their returns (with the Election Commission) that will reflect the extent of Electoral Bonds received.’ The Finance Minister also said that ‘political funding needs to be cleansed up. A very large part of donation coming to political parties by the donors, quantum and source is not known….Electoral Bonds (will) substantially cleanse the system.’

The Election Commission was not amused when Jaitley had announced the Electoral Bonds scheme in his budget proposals. Its objection mainly was that it might lead to the use of black money in electoral politics. In his keynote address at a conference of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) some time back, Election Commissioner O P Rawat observed that ‘the recent amendments in the election and income tax laws make it clear that any donation received by a political party through an Electoral Bond has been taken out of the ambit of reporting in the Contribution Report which political parties have to submit to the EC. Implications of this step can be retrograde as far as transparency is concerned. Furthermore, where contributions received through Electoral Bonds are not reported, a perusal of contributions reports will not make it clear whether the party in question has taken any donations in violation of Section 298 of the Representation of the People Act, which prohibits political parties from taking donations from Government companies and foreign sources.’

Election Commission had expressed the apprehension that abolition of relevant provisions of the Companies Act of removing a cap of 7.5 per cent of profit for political donations can lead to money laundering by setting up of shell companies for diverting funds for donations to political parties.

The January 2 notification says: ‘the information furnished by the buyer (of Electoral Bonds) shall be treated confidential by the authorised bank and shall not be disclosed to any authority for any purposes, except when demanded by a competent court or upon registration of a criminal case by any law enforcement agency.’

That, of course, is the official position. Unofficially, the SBI is all but part of Finance Ministry. In the corruption-ridden system that we have, an unscrupulous Finance Minister can always get the information as to who purchased Electoral Bonds of what amounts and to  which parties’ accounts have these been credited. Next is carrots and sticks approach. 

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Here is how law can be circumvented without offering a bribe of Rs 100 crore or inducing heart attack to the trial judge.

A doctor, specialist in his field, was the Head of Department in an eminent Government hospital in Delhi. He was allotted a big bungalow not far away from the hospital. For some reason, he resigned from his hospital job and decided to concentrate on the construction of his own nursing home for which he had already purchased land. This was in the 1970s.

After relinquishing his Government job, he could retain the bungalow for a certain period at the concessional rent and for another few months by paying market rent. After that period was over, the Estate Officer sent him a notice asking him to vacate the bungalow as he was no more eligible to stay in that.

The doctor consulted his lawyer (who had later on become a judge of Delhi High Court). The lawyer asked him how much time he wanted. On the doctor’s saying ‘till the nursing home was completed’, the lawyer said, ‘not vague but give a specific period.’ The doctor said, ‘maybe 3-4 years.’

On the lawyer’s advice, the doctor wrote to the Estate Officer asking for some time so that he could produce documents in support of his claim to retain the bungalow for some more time. The Estate Officer refused saying he (the doctor) was only resorting to delaying tactics as there could not be any documents which he wanted to present in support of his case.

The doctor’s lawyer then moved an appeal in the District Court against the Estate Officer’s order refusing the doctor to give an opportunity to submit documents in support of his case. The District Judge asked the doctor to bring the documents, if he had any, before the District Judge for his perusal.

The lawyer then moved Delhi High Court on a point of law whether the appellate court could usurp the role of trial court. (The Estate Officer had certain quasi-judicial powers and his office was thus the trial court).

The petition was admitted for hearing. The lawyer told the doctor, ‘it will take around seven years for Delhi High Court to decide the law point; you go ahead with the construction of your nursing home without any worry.’


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Outright Perilous!

An egoist as the head of the government is bad enough. An egotist is a nuisance as his constant chant of I…, I…., I….. jars on the listeners’ years. But when he loses touch with the reality and starts believing his imaginary achievements to be his real achievements, that’s outright perilous.

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