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The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

Elections are an expensive spectacle, and winning them requires a significant financial investment. From advertising and campaigns to grassroots mobilization, money is an indispensable part of electoral politics. This is a universally acknowledged truth, and it’s no secret that money and politics go hand in hand.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral BondsThe Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

In India, political parties raise funds through what are known as Electoral Bonds. These bonds have recently come under scrutiny, with petitions challenging the scheme being heard in India’s Supreme Court.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

This article aims to demystify electoral bonds, explore their pros and cons, and compare them with similar schemes in other countries.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

What are Electoral Bonds?

Electoral bonds are Bearer bonds or money instruments that are Interest-free. They can be purchased by anyone – an individual or a company – and donated to the political party or candidate of their choice.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

The process can be likened to using a food court card at a mall. You load the card with a certain amount and then spend it at different outlets according to your preference. Similarly, electoral bonds are issued by the State Bank of India and come in different values. There is no cap or limit on the number of bonds one can buy.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

Once purchased, these bonds can be donated to any eligible individual or political party and how do you become eligible? Eligibility is determined by the party’s performance in elections – any party that secures at least 1% of the votes is eligible to receive an electoral bond. The party then encashes the bond through a verified account.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral BondsThe Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

It’s important to note that electoral bonds are valid only for 15 days and must be encashed within this timeframe.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

When and How to Buy Electoral Bonds?

Electoral bonds can be purchased at select State Bank branches across most states in India. They are available for 10 days at the beginning of every quarter, and in an election year, they are available for an additional 30 days.

The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

The Introduction of Electoral Bonds in India

Electoral bonds were introduced in India in 2017 and launched in 2018. Prior to this, donations could be made directly to political parties and entities, but any donation above 20,000 rupees had to be made public. Additionally, a company could not donate more than 7.5% of its total profit.

The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

What sets electoral bonds apart is their Anonymity. The name and information of the donor are not entered on the bond, making the donation anonymous.

 

The Impact of Electoral Bonds

As of 2022, 9,188 crore rupees have been donated through electoral bonds. 7 national parties and 24 regional parties have received this money.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

The biggest beneficiary has been the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which received 57% of the total donations. The Indian National Congress, [INC] comes second, having received around 952 crores.

The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

How Do Other Countries Handle Campaign Finance?

In the UK, any group or individual can donate to parties or candidates. There is a donation limit for candidates, but for parties, there is no limit. These contributions do not have to be disclosed.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

In the United States, election campaigns run up to billions of dollars, and there are several groups of donors, including individuals, Political Action Committees (PACs), corporations, and nonprofits.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

In Germany, donations can be made to political parties, but any donation above $12,000 must be disclosed.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

In Canada, contribution is not limited, but spending is.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

 

The Pros and Cons of Electoral Bonds in India

Electoral bonds were introduced to bring transparency and ensure that donations are accounted for. This helps the government keep a tab on black money, and donations now happen through a legitimate channel.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

However, critics argue that the anonymity of donations makes the funding scheme Opaque. They believe that if the government wants to bring transparency, it should reveal donor details. There are also calls for greater accountability and for the public to know how a political party is funded.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

 

The Case in the Supreme Court of India

India’s top court is currently hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the validity of electoral bonds. The petitioners argue that donor details should be public and that electoral bonds violate the constitution of India.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

On the other side, the government has fiercely defended the scheme, stating that electoral bonds enhance free and fair elections. The government also asserts that people have no right to know about the source of money.The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

A 5-member bench of the Supreme Court of India is hearing this matter. It has heard arguments from both sides and has Reserved its verdict for now. However, the debate over electoral bonds is far from over. With the upcoming election year in India, questions about money and its source will undoubtedly be raised again.

The Role of Money in Elections: Supreme Court into Electoral Bonds

 

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