From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Electoral Bond Scheme, RTI
Mains level : Paper 2- Issues in Electoral Bond Scheme
A recent order passed by CIC in an appeal against the State Bank of India (SBI) has once again highlighted the issues with the Electoral Bond Scheme. The article deals with this issue.
Issues with the scheme
- The scheme creates banking instruments for a donation of funds to political parties facilitated by the SBI.
- It conceals the identity of the donors and donees as well as the amount of donation.
- In effect, the scheme is not transparent, promotes arbitrariness, and is therefore illegal.
- The scheme facilitates undisclosed quid pro quo arrangements between donors, who are likely to be corporates, and political parties.
- The Supreme Court held that the freedom of speech and expression also contained the fundamental right of a voter to secure information about the candidates.
- When the voter is permitted to know if an electoral candidate is facing any cases, she should be equally entitled to know who is financing the expenses of the party and its candidate.
CIC order and RTI Act
- The CIC, in an earlier order, deemed political parties to be public authorities under the RTI Act.
- In the present order, the CIC has upheld the contention of the SBI that it is not required to furnish the details of donors, donees, and donations, under the RTI Act.
- In doing so, SBI has relied on two grounds provided under Section 8 of the RTI Act.
- Section 8 exempts disclosure of information if it has been held in a fiduciary capacity and that there was no public interest involved in the application.
- However, any exemption provided under Section 8 should be read-only in a very narrow sense.
- Section 8(2) directs that when public interest outweighs any harm to protected interests, the information sought may be accessed.
- Therefore, it overrides the grounds erroneously relied upon by the CIC.
- The public interest in the present matter is indisputable.
Consider the question “What are the various provisions in the Electoral Bond Scheme? How some of its provisions could come in conflict with the RTI Act.”
By suppressing knowledge of political financing, we are breaking the basic bonds of democracy holding the country together. An unsettled law is as dangerous as bad law. The Court must conclusively settle the questions around the constitutionality of electoral bonds.