Electoral Bonds Case: SC Denies SBI Extension, Demands Information Disclosure by March 12

Supreme Court Sets March 12 Deadline for SBI to Disclose Electoral Bonds Information.

Supreme Court Sets March 12 Deadline for SBI to Disclose Electoral Bonds Information.

The Supreme Court of India has declined the State Bank of India’s (SBI) request for an extension to comply with its previous order regarding the disclosure of details related to electoral bonds. The court has instructed the SBI to reveal the required information by the close of business on March 12.

In its ruling on February 15, the apex court declared the electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional, citing it as violative of the right to information and Article 19(1)(a). As part of the verdict, the SBI was directed to provide details of electoral bonds purchased since April 12, 2019, to the Election Commission of India by March 6.

However, the SBI filed an application seeking an extension until June 30, citing the complexity of decoding and compiling data from the sale of these bonds. The court, presided over by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, B.R. Gavai, J.B. Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, dismissed the extension plea on Monday, March 11.

Also Read: SBI Faces Scrutiny Over Delay in Disclosing Electoral Bond Details

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the SBI, explained that the donor and redemption details of the bonds were stored separately, causing delays in the compilation process. However, Chief Justice Chandrachud pointed out that the court’s directive simply required the disclosure of information already possessed by the bank, emphasizing that the bank’s KYC records contained the necessary details.

The court also questioned the SBI’s progress in the 26 days since the judgment was issued, expressing disappointment with the lack of transparency in the bank’s affidavit. While the SBI emphasized the complexity of the task, Justice Khanna reiterated the court’s expectation for the bank to handle the matter efficiently.

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Addressing concerns about the March 12 deadline, an Election Commission of India spokesman declined to comment. The court, in its final order, directed the SBI to disclose the required information by March 12 and instructed the ECI to compile and publish the information on its website by March 15.

Although the court refrained from initiating contempt proceedings against the SBI at this time, it warned that failure to comply with the latest directives could lead to such actions in the future. Advocates representing various organizations, including Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Common Cause, had sought contempt proceedings against the SBI, alleging deliberate defiance and a lack of transparency.

The petitioners argued that the SBI’s request for an extension was aimed at impeding transparency efforts ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. They highlighted the bank’s sophisticated IT infrastructure and urged for swift disclosure of the information already in its possession.

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In response to these developments, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) also filed a contempt petition against the SBI on March 8. The court has placed the SBI on notice, indicating its readiness to proceed with contempt proceedings if the bank fails to adhere to the timelines specified in its order.

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