The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Election Commission to furnish "up to date" data of funds received by political parties through electoral bonds till September 30.
A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud asked the poll panel to hand over the data to the registrar (judicial) of the apex court in a sealed cover.
The bench, which also comprises Justices Sanjiv Khanna, B.R. Gavai, J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the central government’s electoral bond scheme.
The apex court, in an interim order on April 12, 2019, had directed political parties to furnish the details of funds received by them through electoral bonds to the Election Commission.
Referring to that order, the top court on Thursday said the verdict was not restrictive to the date on which it was pronounced, and if there was any ambiguity, the poll panel should have sought clarification from the court.
The observation came when Advocate Amit Sharma, representing the Election Commission, told the court that the Commission was under the impression that the order was pertaining to only the electoral bonds issued in relation to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"In any event, we now direct that the Election Commission shall produce up to date data until September 30, 2023 in terms of the interim direction which was issued on April 12, 2019," the bench ordered.
Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, termed the electoral bond scheme unconstitutional, undemocratic and unfair, and said it destroys the basic structure of the Constitution.
The court said the deficiencies in the existing system need to be addressed though it would not suggest going back to the cash-only system.
"We do not want to go back to a cash-only system. We are saying do it in a proportionate, tailor-made system which overcomes the serious deficiencies of this electoral bond system," it said.
Congress leader Jaya Thakur, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) are among the petitioners who challenged amendments made to different statutes through the Finance Act 2017 and Finance Act 2016 on the ground that they have opened doors to “unlimited and unchecked” funding of political parties.
The central government, however, claims that the scheme is a transparent mode political funding, which makes it impossible to get black money or unaccounted money.