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SBI Faces Scrutiny Over Delay in Disclosing Electoral Bond Details, Contempt Petition Filed

"SBI Faces Scrutiny Over Delay in Disclosing Electoral Bond Details, Contempt Petition Filed"

SBI’s Request for Extension to Disclose Electoral Bond Details Sparks Controversy Ahead of Lok Sabha Elections

The Supreme Court of India is set to convene a special session on March 11, led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, to address an application submitted by the State Bank of India (SBI). The SBI has requested an extension until June 30 to furnish details regarding electoral bonds purchased anonymously and utilized by political parties since April 2019. Alongside this application, a contempt petition filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms against the SBI is also slated for consideration before the five-judge Bench.

The Bench, comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, B.R. Gavai, J.B. Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, recently invalidated the electoral bonds scheme, deeming it unconstitutional in a unanimous decision rendered on February 15. In the verdict, the bank, authorized to conduct transactions under the scheme, was directed to furnish comprehensive bond details to the Election Commission (EC) by March 6, 2024. Subsequently, the EC was mandated to disclose this information on its website by March 13, 2024.

However, the SBI, through a nine-page application filed on March 4, just two days before the deadline, expressed the need for an extension until the end of June to compile and transmit the requisite details to the EC. The bank cited the dispersed nature of information and the complexity of decoding it across its numerous branches as the primary reasons for the delay.

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The contempt petition, presented by advocates Prashant Bhushan, Cherul D’souza, and Neha Rathi, alleges that the SBI’s delay tactics are aimed at withholding information about anonymous donors and their contributions to political parties ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April-May. The petition asserts that the bank’s stance contradicts a previous affidavit filed by the Union government on March 15, 2019, assuring the apex court of the transparency and traceability of bond-related information.

According to the petition, the electoral bonds scheme was designed to maintain a transparent system, capturing details such as KYC (Know Your Customer) information, PAN (Permanent Account Number) details, and the identities and addresses of donors. It claims that the SBI maintains a concealed, number-based donor record and that each electoral bond possesses a unique identifier. The petition argues that accessing this information through the database should not require manual verification.

The upcoming hearing is anticipated to address these contentious issues, seeking clarity on the SBI’s compliance with the court’s directives and the transparency of the electoral bonds scheme.

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