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An opportunity to reform election funds An opportunity to amend election funds Article By Shekhar Gupta SEDI News

Aurangabad4 days ago

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Instead of cleaning up the ‘system’, the new electoral bonds have legitimized corruption. More than five years have passed. India’s election funding system is more corrupt than it was before this dubious reform. Can Bhat expect our most respected institution, the Supreme Court, to correct the mistake by bringing clarity?

The Supreme Court has got another chance to reform the corrupt system of election funding in India. It is also an opportunity for them to correct this mistake. Corruption in politics has its roots in election funding. It started with the first general election in 1952. Even the most intelligent people of three generations of India could not improve it in 65 years. The Union Budget was finally enacted on 1 April 2017 as soon as it came into effect. In the five years that followed, a new national government and two dozen state governments were elected, overthrown, re-elected, but the system remained intact. The Supreme Court has fixed September 19 as the date for hearing the challenge to the benami electoral bond system implemented by the government. The Supreme Court in 2019 constituted a three-judge bench headed by the then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjeev Khanna. The bench issued an interim injunction, so lax that Alexander Pope had written the phrase – ‘I am ready to injure, but I fear to attack.’

However, when raising a question before the Supreme Court, the choice of words must be very careful, especially in this case. This is because the court’s interim order—which would have given it an opportunity to consider the matter in detail soon—has stayed the matter indefinitely. This ‘indeterminate period’ is about three and a half years and three Chief Justices have completed their terms during this period. There is a possibility that the fifth Chief Justice will have arrived by the time the hearing on this is accelerated. Quite humbly and respectfully, there is a lot of confusion in this, so in hindsight, it seems like a point to avoid this risk. However, a day before this interim order, the first phase of the 2019 general elections was held in several states. In this order, the bench said that there should be transparency. And he also gave us transparency. All it took was transparency in a sealed envelope. The bench said that each party will have to submit the details of donations received through these benami election bonds to the Election Commission by May 30, 2019. It was left to the commission to decide whether, how and when to disclose them. That is, the bench threw the ball in the commission’s court. And the commission suppressed those details. It would be foolish to expect retired public servants to do what Supreme Court judges hesitated to do.

Late Arun Jaitley had announced these electoral bonds in the 2017-18 budget, calling them a partial reform. This is the first step towards eradicating black money from election donations, he said. It seemed appropriate, because what was happening till then was rich people, good or not so good corporates, big real estate players, mining owners, criminals, traffickers, thugs, anyone was paying those political parties and leaders by the bag. But, now they can buy Electoral Bonds from State Bank of India, of course only with valid money. Political donations are tax-deductible through these bonds, which also encourages them to buy them with legitimate money. This also allowed political groups to participate in that white circle, as the donations they received were tax-free. But, if this is the first step towards transparency, the failure to take the next logical step has made the treatment of the disease worse than the disease.

His account is something like this. A donor – usually a corporate – purchases electoral bonds of the same value through a bearer check or bond by visiting a state bank and handing over to the party of his choice. That party deposits the bond into their bank account. The donor does not need to say to whom the bond is handed over and the recipient does not need to disclose where the money came from. Thus the first phase brought election funding from black money to white money, but the second phase put a veil of oblivion on it. So the case remains that money is exchanged between the two interested parties in complete darkness, but the voter will not know how much money has been paid to whom. E.g. Who knows why a sector (let’s say steel) is suddenly exempted from huge duty hikes when there is no way to dispel the suspicion that the gang industry has invested heavily in these electoral bonds? Apart from this no one outside knows anything, but the ‘System’ knows everything. After all, the government bank knows who bought the bond or which party deposited the amount. After this only bond number matching remains. In this way the person in control of the ‘system’ can easily find out who is friend and who is enemy, who to benefit and who to punish.

Shekhar Gupta Editor-in-Chief, ‘The Print’ Twitter @ShekharGupta These are the personal views of the author.

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