Petitioners demand SIT probe into electoral bonds

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan claims INR 24.71 billion paid to BJP


March 24, 2024

/ By / New Delhi

Petitioners demand SIT probe into electoral bonds

Prashant Bhushan, Anjali Bhardwaj and Jagdeep Chhokar addressing the media at Press Club of India, in New Delhi

In the wake of recent revelations about the details of companies that bought electoral bonds, of which an overwhelming majority went to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, transparency activists and experts have demanded an independent probe into alleged corruption labelling it as the biggest in Indian history.

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Following the Supreme Court’s decision to scrap the controversial electoral bond scheme, calling it “unconstitutional” on February 15,  attention has turned to the recent release of comprehensive data shedding light on the scheme’s inner workings.

Renowned lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan, speaking at a press conference at Press Club of India on Friday emphasised the need for an independent Special Investigation Team (SIT) to thoroughly examine all aspects of the now-defunct scheme.

“Under the heading Chanda do, Dhandha Lo (Quid Pro Quo) plus Theka Lo, Rishwat Do (Kickbacks) INR 1,7.51 billion worth of electoral bonds were given to companies who were given contracts worth INR 62,0 billion  by BJP governments. This is public money,”  Bhushan told the press.

According to revelations presented by Bhushan and others addressing the press conference, 41 companies embroiled in investigations by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and the Income Tax Department have purportedly funnelled  INR 2,4.71 billion crore to the BJP through electoral bonds. Significantly, a substantial portion of this sum, amounting to INR 1,6.98 billion, was allegedly donated post-raids conducted by these agencies, raising suspicions of quid pro quo arrangements.

He added that the scandal surrounding electoral bonds surpasses previous controversies such as the 2G and coal scams. He emphasised the necessity of a Supreme Court-monitored probe, highlighting the significant money trails uncovered within the electoral bond scheme.

The top court’s decision to scrap the electoral bond scheme on February 15 marked a pivotal moment, prompting the State Bank of India (SBI) to disclose comprehensive details regarding bonds sold and redeemed since April 2019. The subsequent publication of this data by the Election Commission shed light on potential links between donors and beneficiary political parties.

Anjali Bhardwaj of Common Cause, an NGO that says it takes up public causes, said that it is important to analyse electoral bonds data before April 12, 2019.

“We need to thoroughly analyse all the information. The Supreme Court made all information public after April 12, 2019. This information pertained to bonds valued at INR 12,5 billion, whereas the total electoral bonds sold were approximately worth INR 16,5 billion, This implies that bonds worth INR 4,05 billion, were sold, yet there is no information available on them. We remain unaware of who purchased those bonds. This information holds significance in establishing quid pro quo, corruption, and kickbacks,” she added

She also raised questioneds the independence of the SBI in managing the electoral bond scheme.

Jagdeep Chhokar, a founding member and trustee of ADR, stated that the objective is not to influence elections but rather to advocate for transparency regarding contributions made to political parties.

“Our focus isn’t on whether the electoral bonds issue will influence polls, nor do we aim to sway elections. Our goal is to promote political transparency,” said Chhokar.

Chokkar pointed out that no one can say that political-corporate nexus does not exist. What about the vote of the poor? This is a natural movement towards strengthening democracy.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. For instance, Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd) enquired with the SBI about the funds spent on publishing electoral bonds. It was revealed that millions were expended. Who covered those costs? They were funded by the Finance Ministry. I believe the funds within the ministry are public money. Companies are donating to political parties, yet the expenses of this process are being borne by the public,” he added.



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