Desperate Modi govt, clutching on straws: Congress on SBI moving SC on electoral bonds

The Congress on Tuesday attacked the Centre over the State Bank of India moving the Supreme Court to seek more time to disclose electoral bond details, alleging that the Modi government is using the largest bank of the country as a shield to hide its "dubious dealings".
Congress on State Bank of India's plea in the Supreme Court
Congress on State Bank of India's plea in the Supreme Court

New Delhi | The Congress on Tuesday attacked the Centre over the State Bank of India moving the Supreme Court to seek more time to disclose electoral bond details, alleging that the Modi government is using the largest bank of the country as a shield to hide its "dubious dealings".

The State Bank of India (SBI) on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking an extension till June 30 to disclose details of each electoral bond encashed by political parties. In its verdict last month, the top court directed the SBI to furnish the details to the poll panel by March 6.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the Congress' position on the electoral bonds scheme is that it is "opaque, undemocratic and destroyed the level playing field".

"Modi government is using the largest bank of our country as a shield to hide its dubious dealings through Electoral Bonds," he said.

No less than the Supreme Court of India had struck down Modi government's "black money conversion scheme" of Electoral Bonds, holding it "unconstitutional", "violative of RTI" and "illegal" and asking SBI to furnish donor details by March 6, he said.

"But the BJP wants it to be done after Lok Sabha elections. The tenure of this Lok Sabha will end on 16th June and SBI wants to share the data by 30th June," Kharge said.

The BJP is the main beneficiary of this "fraudulent scheme", he alleged.

"Isn't the government conveniently hiding the BJP's shady dealings where contracts of highways, ports, airports, power plants etc. were handed over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cronies in lieu of these opaque electoral bonds," he asked.

"Experts say that the 44,434 automated data entries of donors can be divulged and matched in just 24 hours. Why does the SBI then need 4 more months to collate this information?" he said.

"Congress party was crystal clear that the Electoral Bonds scheme was opaque, undemocratic and destroyed level playing field. But the Modi government, PMO and FM bulldozed every institution - RBI, Election Commission, Parliament and Opposition to fill BJP's coffers," Kharge alleged.

"Now a desperate Modi Govt, clutching on straws, is trying to use SBI to bulldoze the Supreme Court's judgement!" he said.

Congress MP Manish Tewari also hit out at the government and urged the Supreme Court to not allow SBI's plea. "Supreme Court should not allow @TheOfficialSBI to get away with its chicanery on Electoral Bonds," Tewari said on X.

"People before the General Elections must know who got what from whom & whether there was any prima-facie quid pro quo involved?" he said.

The Supreme Court must order lifting of the "corporate veil of SPV's called electoral trusts to reveal the true identity of the donor", Tewari said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had on Monday slammed the government over the issue, terming it a "last-ditch attempt" before the Lok Sabha polls to hide Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "real face".

In a post in Hindi on X, Gandhi had said, "Narendra Modi has put his entire force in order to hide the 'donation business'." "When the Supreme Court has stated that it is the right of the people of the country to know the truth about electoral bonds, then why does the SBI not want this information to be made public before the elections?" the former Congress chief had said.

In an application filed before the top court, SBI contended that 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 plea submitted that due to stringent measures undertaken to ensure that the identity of the donors was kept anonymous, "decoding" the electoral bonds and matching donors to the donations made would be a complex process.

"It is 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. This was done to ensure that donors' anonymity would be protected.

"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," the plea said.

In a landmark judgement that delivered a big blow to the government, the Supreme Court on February 15 annulled the electoral bonds scheme for political funding, saying it violates the Constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression as well as the right to information.

In its verdict months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the apex court ordered SBI to disclose to the Election Commission the names of the contributors to the six-year-old scheme.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud directed that the SBI must disclose details of each electoral bond encashed by political parties. The information should include the date of encashment and the denomination of the bonds and be submitted to the poll panel by March 6.

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