Electoral Reforms In India

The clear message in the Court’s ‘no’ to electoral bonds


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: na

Mains level: The electoral bonds scheme

Supreme Court strikes down Electoral Bonds Scheme as 'Unconstitutional'

Central Idea:

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down India’s electoral bonds scheme marks a significant victory for transparency in democracy. The judgment highlights the importance of ensuring that political funding is transparent and accountable to the public.

Key Highlights:

  • The Supreme Court’s ruling on February 15, 2024, declared the electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional due to its lack of transparency.
  • The scheme allowed undisclosed corporate funding of political parties, removing previous limits and potentially enabling influence peddling.
  • Amendments to the Reserve Bank of India Act and other laws to introduce electoral bonds were deemed arbitrary and violative of fundamental rights.
  • The court ordered the State Bank of India to cease issuing electoral bonds and mandated disclosure of all previously issued bonds to the Election Commission.
  • The judgment underscores the importance of judicial review in upholding democratic principles and protecting constitutional rights.

Key Challenges:

  • The influence of money in elections remains a challenge, including the use of black money and bribery.
  • The lack of independent voting in India’s legislative process allows ruling parties to pass laws without sufficient scrutiny or consultation.
  • Political parties’ resistance to transparency raises concerns about their commitment to serving the public interest.

Main Terms from the article:

  • Electoral bonds: Instruments for anonymous political donations introduced in India.
  • Transparency: Openness and accountability in political processes and decision-making.
  • Judicial review: The power of courts to assess the constitutionality of laws and government actions.
  • Fundamental rights: Constitutional protections for individual freedoms and equality.
  • Campaign funding: Financial support for political parties and candidates during elections.

Important phrases for mains answer writing:

  • “Transparency is the basis of campaign funding.”
  • “The judgment restores transparency in political funding.”
  • “The ruling prevents undue influence on the government by corporate donors.”
  • “The power of judicial review is crucial for upholding democracy.”
  • “The price of democracy is eternal vigilance.”

Quotes for value addition:

  • “The electoral bonds scheme was opaque.”
  • “The judgment prevents crony capitalism from influencing political parties.”
  • “The ruling party bypassed transparency with electoral bonds.”
  • “The power of judicial review is precious.”
  • “We need political parties, but it is up to us to ensure they work for the good of society.”

Useful Statements:

  • “The Supreme Court’s decision reaffirms the principle that transparency is essential for democracy.”
  • “The ruling highlights the need for robust mechanisms to prevent undue influence on political processes.”
  • “Public scrutiny and vigilance are vital for holding political parties accountable.”
  • “The judgment sets a precedent for upholding constitutional rights in electoral matters.”
  • “Citizens’ engagement is crucial for ensuring that political parties serve the interests of the nation.”

Examples and References:

  • The case of electoral bonds exemplifies the tension between transparency and political expediency in India’s democracy.
  • Similar challenges with campaign finance transparency have been observed in other democracies worldwide.
  • Instances of corporate influence on policy-making underscore the importance of regulating political funding.
  • Civil society organizations and activists have played a critical role in advocating for transparency in political funding.
  • Past instances of electoral malpractice highlight the need for stronger legal safeguards against undue influence.

Facts and Data:

  • The Supreme Court’s ruling was issued on February 15, 2024.
  • Electoral bonds were introduced as a means of anonymous political funding.
  • Amendments to various laws facilitated the implementation of the electoral bonds scheme.
  • The Election Commission of India raised concerns about the potential misuse of electoral bonds.
  • The judgment requires the State Bank of India to disclose all previously issued electoral bonds to the Election Commission by March 6, 2024.

Critical Analysis:

  • The electoral bonds scheme represented a departure from established norms of transparency in political funding.
  • The Supreme Court’s decision underscores the judiciary’s role in upholding democratic principles and constitutional rights.
  • The ruling highlights the challenges of balancing political expediency with the need for transparency and accountability.
  • Political parties’ resistance to transparency raises questions about their commitment to democratic values.
  • The judgment sets a precedent for future legal challenges to electoral practices that undermine transparency and accountability.

Way Forward:

  • Strengthening legal safeguards to ensure transparency and accountability in political funding.
  • Promoting civic engagement and public awareness to hold political parties accountable.
  • Enhancing mechanisms for independent oversight and regulation of campaign finance.
  • Encouraging broader political reforms to address systemic issues of corruption and undue influence.
  • Emphasizing the importance of upholding democratic principles and constitutional rights in electoral matters

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