Electoral Bonds: SC Rejects SBI's Plea For Time Extension, Directs It To Furnish Details By Tomorrow - Eastern Mirror
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Electoral bonds: SC rejects SBI’s plea for time extension, directs it to furnish details by tomorrow

By PTI Updated: Mar 11, 2024 2:23 pm
Electoral bonds: SC rejects SBI's plea for time extension, directs it to furnish details by tomorrow

NEW DELHI In a major setback to the State Bank of India, the Supreme Court on Monday trashed its plea seeking an extension of time and ordered it to disclose the details of electoral bonds to the Election Commission by close of business hours on March 12.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud also directed the EC to publish the details shared by the bank on its official website by 5 pm on March 15.

Related story: Electoral Bonds case: SC to hear SBI’s application seeking extension of time, contempt plea against bank on Monday

The bench, also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai, J B Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, put the SBI on notice that the apex court may be inclined to proceed against it for “wilful disobedience” of its February 15 verdict if the bank failed to comply with its directions and timelines.

In a landmark verdict delivered on February 15, a five-judge Constitution bench had scrapped the Centre’s electoral bonds scheme that allowed anonymous political funding, calling it “unconstitutional” and ordered disclosure by the EC of donors, the amount donated by them and the recipients by March 13.

Ordering the closure of the scheme, the top court directed the SBI, the authorised financial institution under the scheme, to submit by March 6 the details of the electoral bonds purchased since April 12, 2019, till date to the Election Commission.

On Monday, the bench was hearing the bank’s application seeking an extension of time till June 30 to furnish the details.

The bench was also hearing separate pleas seeking the initiation of contempt action against the SBI for alleged willful disobedience of the apex court’s February 15 directives.

It observed that SBI’s submissions in the application sufficiently indicated that the information which was directed to be disclosed by the court was readily available.

“In view of the above discussion, the miscellaneous application filed by SBI seeking an extension of time for the disclosure of details of the purchase and redemption of electoral bonds until June 30, 2024, is dismissed,” it said.

“SBI is directed to disclose the details by the close of business hours of March 12,” the bench said, adding, “As regards the ECI, we direct that ECI shall compile the information and publish the details on its official website no later by 5 pm on March 15, 2024”.

The bench said the SBI shall file an affidavit of its chairman and managing director on compliance with the directions issued by the top court.

During the hearing, the bench took note of the submissions of senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the SBI, that more time was needed for collating the details and matching them as the information was kept in two different silos with its branches.

He further said if the matching exercise was to be done away with, the SBI could complete the exercise within three weeks.

The bench said it had not directed the bank to match the details of donors and donee with other information.

The SBI has to just open the sealed cover, collate the details and give the information to the EC, it said.

The bench also asked the bank about the steps taken by it to comply with the directions given by the top court in its February 15 judgment.

“In the last 26 days, what steps have you taken? Your application is silent on that,” it said.

It also asked the SBI to do a “plain disclosure” as per the court’s judgment.

At the outset, Salve told the bench that the bank had stopped the issuance of electoral bonds as per the court’s February 15 direction.

“We need a little more time to comply with your lordships’ order,” he said.

Justice Chandrachud, while referring to the SBI’s application, said as per the bank, the donor details were kept in a sealed cover in a designated branch of the bank.

Justice Khanna said the bank mentioned in the application that all purchaser details were kept in a sealed cover.

In its application, the SBI had contended that the retrieval of information from “each silo” and the procedure of matching the information of one silo to that of the other would be a time-consuming exercise.

The application said due to stringent measures undertaken to ensure that the identity of the donors was kept anonymous, “decoding” the electoral bonds and matching the donors to the donations would be a complex process.

“It submitted that the data related to the issuance of the bond and the data related to the redemption of the bond was kept recorded in two different silos. No central database was maintained,” it said.

“It is submitted that donor details were kept in a sealed cover at the designated branches and all such sealed covers were deposited in the main branch of the applicant bank, which is located in Mumbai,” it said.

Also read: Plea in SC seeks to restrain Centre from appointing Election Commissioner

By PTI Updated: Mar 11, 2024 2:23:48 pm
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