On Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear on March 24, 2021 a fresh plea seeking a direction to the Centre and others to not open any further window for sale of electoral bonds during pendency of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) pertaining to funding of political parties and alleged lack of transparency in their accounts.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian took note of the submission of an NGO that its plea be heard urgently.
The hearing assumes significance as it would take place ahead of assembly polls in several states, including West Bengal.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Association for Democratic Reforms, said for the last two years, the PIL has not been listed for hearing. The Reserve Bank of India and the Election Commission have said that illicit monies are being transacted, which is also detrimental to the economy, the lawyer said, adding that on April 1, 2021 the bonds will be issued and hence, the case needed an urgent hearing.
The bench asked Bhushan whether the plea for stay on the electoral bond scheme has been rejected earlier by the court. Bhushan replied, it has not been rejected in clear terms as the apex court had earlier asked the political parties to submit their account statements to the poll panel in sealed covers. Since then several developments have taken place, and it has been said that the electoral bonds allow transactions of illicit money, he said.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the bench that attorney general K.K. Venugopal would appear in the case.
The bench fixed the fresh plea, filed in the pending PIL, for hearing on next Wednesday.
The NGO, in its fresh plea, has claimed that there is a serious apprehension that any further sale of electoral bonds before the upcoming assembly elections, including in West Bengal and Assam, would further increase illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.
On January 20, 2020 last year, the apex court had refused to grant interim stay on the 2018 Electoral Bonds Scheme and sought responses of the Centre and the Election Commission on an interim application by the NGO seeking stay on the scheme.