Former Finance Secretary Subhash Garg has suggested that the electoral bonds data released by the State Bank of India (SBI) exposed a significant breach of trust. Garg said the bank was not supposed to record the unique bond numbers and in doing so had “shattered” the cornerstone feature of the now scrapped scheme in ensuring anonymity between bond buyers and political parties.

Speaking to India Today, the former Finance Secretary said, “The meticulously designed electoral bonds, meant to safeguard against any link between donors and political affiliations, did have an invisible alphanumeric code, not meant to be known even to the SBI itself. The alphanumeric code, visible only under ultraviolet light, was intended solely for security purposes.”

“However, the SBI, going beyond its mandate, not only uncovered but meticulously recorded these codes for each bond issued and deposited, thereby compromising the anonymity link of the donors and political party they donated to,” Garg further said.

On February 15, the Supreme Court, while scrapping the electoral bonds scheme, ordered the SBI to disclose data regarding the denomination, date, and amount of each electoral bond by March 6.

However, instead of complying promptly, the SBI filed a petition seeking an extension until June 30, citing the need for a convoluted matching exercise.

The SBI’s plea was rejected by the top court, which instructed SBI to disclose the alphanumeric codes by March 21. Also on court orders, the Election Commission published the data on its website. With the veil of secrecy lifted, the connection between bond buyers and political parties became glaringly apparent.

The bureaucrat further said, “Despite significant contributions made by companies and individuals trusting in the bonds’ pragmatic and limited transparency, the fallout from the SBI’s mismanagement has rendered their protection meaningless.”

Still, a crucial piece of the puzzle remains concealed. The data pertaining to the alphanumeric numbers of electoral bonds purchased and deposited between March 2018 and April 11, 2019, are still undisclosed.

Sharing his views on this, Subhash Garg said, “The Election Commission of India may intervene to ensure complete transparency and a level playing field for all electoral bonds issued and deposited over the past six years, amounting to approximately Rs 16,200 crore by asking to disclose the alphanumeric codes of bonds issued before 12 April 2019.”

In the wake of this breach, questions abound regarding the integrity of electoral financing and the role of financial institutions in safeguarding democratic processes.

The urgency now lies in restoring trust and accountability to preserve the sanctity of India’s electoral system.

Published On:

Mar 26, 2024

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