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Electoral Bond Scheme: Supreme Court to hear separately on FCRA amendment, know what is the matter

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the petitions challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme, bringing political parties under the purview of the Right to Information Act and amendments to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act will be heard separately. Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha’s bench said that three different issues have been raised in the petitions and hence, they need to be heard separately. One set of petitions challenges laws allowing funding of political parties through the electoral bond scheme, while another seeks to bring the parties under the purview of the Right to Information Act (RTI).

The third set of PILs challenges the amendments made to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 by the central government through the Finance Acts of 2016 and 2018. The amended FCRA reportedly allows political parties to receive foreign donations. The bench said in its order that these petitions need to be heard separately. The bench also asked the Center to file its reply on some petitions, including the old ones. It said the petitions challenging the electoral bond scheme would be heard in the third week of March, while the petitions seeking to bring political parties under RTI would be heard in the first week of April.

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The Chief Justice said, ‘The petition related to FCRA amendments will be heard in the middle of April.’ Seven petitions, including one filed by NGO ‘Association for Democratic Reforms’, were listed for hearing on Tuesday. The Supreme Court had said that it would hear in the last week of January 2023 the PILs challenging the laws allowing funding of political parties through the Electoral Bond Scheme. Electoral bonds have been introduced as an alternative to cash donations to political parties in an effort to bring transparency in political funding.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner NGO of the PIL, Association for Democratic Reforms, had told the court that the petitions involved several constitutional questions, which have an impact on the sanctity of the electoral process. He had said that whether to hand over the issue to the constitution bench or not, this issue can be looked into first. Earlier, Bhushan had sought urgent listing of the PIL by the top court seeking a direction to the Center to investigate the matter related to the alleged lack of transparency in the funding of political parties and their bank accounts. No further window should be opened for sale of Electoral Bonds during the pendency of the hearing.

The NGO had filed a PIL, stating that the alleged illegal and foreign donations to political parties and the lack of transparency in their accounts lead to corruption and harm democracy. The NGO had filed an interim application in March 2021 ahead of the assembly elections in West Bengal and Assam and requested that the window for sale of electoral bonds not be opened again. On January 20, 2020, the apex court refused to grant an interim stay on the 2018 Electoral Bond Scheme and sought response of the Center and the Election Commission on an interim application by an NGO seeking a stay on the scheme. The government had notified the Electoral Bond Scheme on January 2, 2018.

Tags: Electoral Bond, supreme court of india

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