India’s Supreme Court dismisses State Bank plea to extend electoral bonds deadline

Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

The Supreme Court of India on Monday (India time) dismissed State Bank of India’s application to extend the deadline to comply with the court’s earlier order to furnish electoral bonds details by March 12, 2024. The court asserted that the bank has all the sufficient details to make the records public and asked it to disclose the information by the close of business hours of March 12, 2024. It also asked the Election Commission of India to furnish details on its website by March 15, 2024.

Last month, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had declared the electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional, and had directed SBI to furnish details of all electoral bonds purchased since April 12, 2019, to the Election Commission of India by March 6. However, early in March, the bank filed an application seeking an extension till June 30, citing the complexity of decoding and compiling data from the sale of these bonds.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud (pictured above), Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice BR Gavai, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra heard the plea, along with contempt petitions filed by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Common Cause, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) against the public sector bank over its non-disclosure of vital details related to electoral bonds despite the Supreme Court’s directives to that effect.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve appearing for SBI. He said the challenge faced by the bank is in reconciling donor and redemption details, which were stored in separate information silos. He said, “We need a little more time to comply with Your Lordships’ order.”

According to Livelaw, Salve acknowledged that the SBI had the purchaser details but explained the difficulty in matching them with the bond numbers. “Apart from this, he mentioned that some of the information was kept physically, not digitally, compounding the difficulty of the task,” Livelaw reported.

CJI Chandrachud asked SBI there was little progress on the issue despite the SC’s order coming on February 15. He said, “Our judgment was issued on February 15. Today, it is March 11. In the last 26 days, what is the extent of matching done by you? The affidavit is silent on this. We expect a degree of candour from the State Bank of India.”

The Supreme Court had asked for details regarding the date of purchase of each electoral bond, the name of the purchaser of the bond, and the denomination of the electoral bond purchased. It also ordered SBI to give details of electoral bond encashed by the political parties, including the date of such encashment.

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