Electoral bonds: SBI affidavit skips mention of unique code to match donations with parties

The State Bank of India, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, remained silent on whether a unique code on each electoral bond that could be used to match each donation to the party that received it was part of the data it submitted to the Election Commission, reported The Indian Express.

The bank informed the court that it has complied with the order and furnished details of anonymously purchased electoral bonds by contributors and encashed by political parties between April 2019 and February 15, 2024 to the Election Commission.

This comes after the top court had on Monday directed the government-owned bank to disclose details relating to the electoral bonds to the polling body by Tuesday. The top court also ordered the Election Commission to compile the information and publish it on its website by March 15.

The court on Monday dismissed the bank’s petition seeking an extension of the deadline till June 30.

The Supreme Court had on February 15 directed the bank to issue details of the political parties that received electoral bonds from April 12, 2019, and submit them to the Election Commission by March 6. The court had said that the electoral bonds could lead to quid pro quo arrangements between donors and political parties when it struck down the scheme as unconstitutional.

The bank “has ready records in which the date of purchase, denomination and name of buyer were recorded, and [in relation to the political parties] the date of encashment and the denominations of the bonds encashed were recorded”, the compliance affidavit by the bank’s Chairperson Dinesh Kumar Khara said.

The State Bank of India has also furnished names of the buyers of the electoral bonds, with the date of purchase and denomination of the bond. The details also include the names of the political parties who have redeemed the bonds, along with the date and denomination.

A total of 22,217 electoral bonds were purchased and 22,030 were redeemed by political parties between April 1, 2019, and February 15, 2024, the affidavit said.

Between April 1, 2019 and April 11, 2019, the bank sold 3,346 electoral bonds and 1,609 were redeemed by political parties. Between April 12, 2019, and February 15, 2024, donors bought 18,871 bonds and 20,421 were redeemed by parties.

Electoral bonds were monetary instruments that citizens or corporate groups could buy from the State Bank of India and give to a political party, which then redeems them. The entire process was anonymous since buyers were not required to declare their purchase of these interest-free bonds and political parties did not need to show the source of the money.

Only the total amount received through the electoral bonds is revealed to the Election Commission through the audited accounts statements. The scheme was introduced by the BJP-led Union government in 2018.

The Centre, however, had access to information about the donors as it controls the State Bank of India.

Also read:

‘SBI is lying’: Why banking experts dispute its claims on electoral bonds data

In charts: BJP received more money from electoral bonds than 30 other parties combined

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