SBI's Evasion and the Voter's Right to Information

The Supreme Court declared the electoral bond scheme unconstitutional in February 2024. However, the State Bank of India (SBI) requested an additional four months to disclose crucial information related to electoral bonds, raising suspicions of attempts to conceal donor identities.

In February 2024, the Supreme Court of India delivered a landmark judgment declaring the electoral bond scheme unconstitutional. This scheme, designed to facilitate anonymous funding of political parties, raised concerns about the influence of big money in Indian politics. Following the directive from the Supreme Court, the State Bank of India (SBI), tasked with issuing and encashing electoral bonds, was given 21 days to disclose crucial information to the Election Commission of India (ECI). However, just before the deadline, the SBI filed an affidavit citing technical difficulties and requested an additional four months to comply with the court's order.

The SBI's affidavit revealed the absurdity of its request, as it claimed that decoding and disclosing the necessary data would be a challenging task due to the separation of donor information into different storage systems. Despite the availability of purchaser details and bond redemption records at a single location, the SBI argued that matching this information would require significant effort. This evasive response from the SBI has sparked public suspicion that the bank is attempting to conceal donor identities ahead of the 2024 general elections.

The Supreme Court's judgment emphasized the voter's right to information, including financial contributions to political parties and their impact on electoral politics and governance. By highlighting the correlation between corporate funding and policy-making, the Court underscored the importance of transparency in political party funding. It asserted that voters have the right to assess whether there is a quid pro quo relationship between financial contributions and policy decisions, empowering them to make informed choices during elections.

In light of the SBI's delaying tactics, it is imperative for the Supreme Court to uphold the voter's constitutional right to information under Article 19(1)(a). The Court must ensure that the timelines set for disclosing electoral bond details are adhered to, enabling voters to make informed decisions when exercising their franchise. As noted by the Chief Justice of India, information about political party funding is essential for voters to exercise their freedom to vote effectively. Thus, the Supreme Court's intervention is crucial in ensuring transparency and accountability in India's electoral process.