Relevance: GS Paper II (Polity & Governance)
Theme of the article
The Electoral Bond Scheme inhibits the citizen’s capacity to meaningfully participate in political and public life.
Why has this issue cropped up?
Early this year the government introduced an Electoral Bond Scheme purportedly with a view to cleansing the prevailing culture of political sponsorship.
Problems with the electoral bond
- There is no ceiling on party expenditure and the EC (Election Commission) cannot monitor it, then how can one be sure that what is coming in is not black money as there is a secrecy of the donor.
- Too opaque In its present form, the scheme permits not only individuals and body corporates, but also “every artificial juridical person,” to purchase bonds.
- The scheme allows for complete anonymity of the donor. Neither the purchaser of the bond nor the political party receiving the donation is mandated to disclose the donor’s identity. Therefore, not only will, say, the shareholders of a corporation be unaware of the company’s contributions, but the voters too will have no idea of how, and through whom, a political party has been funded.
- Just as damaging to the most basic democratic ideals is the elimination of a slew of other barriers that were in place to check the excesses of corporate political sponsoring. For instance, the programme removes an existing condition that had prohibited companies from donating anything more than 7.5% of their average net-profit over the previous three years. This now means that even loss-making entities can make unlimited contributions.
- The requirement that a corporation ought to have been in existence for at least three years before it could make donations — a system that was meant to stop shell concerns from being created with a view purely to syphoning money into politics — has also been removed
Violation of the constitution
- Article 110 of the Constitution allows the Speaker to classify a proposed legislation as a money bill, only when the draft law deals with all or any of the subjects enlisted in the provision. It’s impossible to see how the provisions pertaining to the electoral bond scheme could possibly fall within any of these categories.
- The scheme subverts the fundamental rights to equality and freedom of expression. There’s no doubt that the Constitution does not contain an explicitly enforceable right to vote. But implicit in its guarantees of equality and free speech is a right to knowledge and information. In the absence of complete knowledge about the identities of those funding the various different parties, it’s difficult to conceive how a citizen can meaningfully participate in political and public life.
The electoral bonds scheme , unless immediately rescinded, may well irredeemably damage India’s democratic edifice.