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Electoral Bonds Data Row: What Has Been Disclosed And What Is Next

The Supreme Court has directed SBI to furnish full details including unique numbers against purchase of bonds by March 21. After the first set of data was made public by the ECI on March 14, numerous questions surrounding beneficiary parties, donors, official figures and the links have arisen.

Kabir Jhangiani/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Kabir Jhangiani/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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Following the release of the second list of details surrounding electoral bonds which revealed the transactions which took place from 2018, The Supreme Court, on March 18, directed the State Bank of India (SBI) bank to submit full details of the bonds' unique numbers to the Election Commission by March 21, further stating that they ‘can't be selective’ in disclosing information linked to the now unconstitutional electoral bonds. The ‘unique numbers’ would allow all the transactions of all listed entities who bought electoral bonds to be linked to the beneficiary parties. Submission of the alphanumeric details from SBI are awaited today.

What Has Been Disclosed

According to the initial Supreme Court directive, SBI, which was the authorised seller of electoral bonds, placed the data in front of the panel on March 12 which was eventually uploaded by the Election Commission on its website on March 14. The Election Commission uploaded the State Bank of India (SBI)-provided data on the electoral bonds on its website, in compliance with the Supreme Court's directions.

The data which was uploaded in two parts - the first one containing 337 pages mentioning the buyers and the date of purchase, while the second part consisted of 426 pages, providing details of the beneficiary parties, dates, and the amount. With Sunday’s list, bond details submitted by the parties in sealed covers, have been made public.

Recipient and Donors: Where The Numbers Stand

Further an affidavit filed by SBI further stated that 22,217 bonds were purchased between April 1, 2019, and February 15, 2024, and the total number of bonds redeemed during this period was 22,030. The bonds which were not redeemed within the validity period of 15 days were transferred to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. Following the second list, the collated numbers from April 2019 shows the beneficiary parties who received the maximum amounts were the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with a total of Rs 6986 crore, All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) receiving a total of Rs 1,397 crore, the Congress receiving Rs 1,334.35 crores, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) with Rs ₹1,322 crore, and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) receiving Rs 944 crore. Although the fresh list was released and numerous parties revealed their donor lists amounts, donations which were made public by ECI do not include the names of the donors, except those who voluntarily released them. 

Prominent figures like steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, Sunil Bharti Mittal's Airtel, Sanjiv Goenka's RPSG, Anil Agarwal's Vedanta, ITC, Mahindra and Mahindra, along with entities like Future Gaming and Hotel Services, were among the listed purchasers of electoral bonds. The data revealed that the highest donor was Future Gaming And Hotel Services of lottery king Santiago Martin with Rs 1,368 crore followed by Megha Engineering And Infrastructure Ltd with Rs 980 crore. Four companies from West Bengal, Haldia Energy Limited, Essel Mining and Industry Limited, Keventer Foodpark Infra Limited, and Madanlal Limited found their names on the list of top donors. 

What The Bench Said  

On Monday, the five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud had directed the inclusion of the ‘serial number’ of each bond to link the purchases to the parties. As reported by NDTV, veteran lawyer Harish Salve, representing the SBI, mentioned that the alphanumeric, the unique numeric marker on each electoral bond that can be read only under UV light, is only a security feature and separate from the audit trail. Justifying why the data provided by the SBI does not link the donors with their recipients, he said the “purchase and redemption data of electoral bonds were stored in two separate files since the bank was under the dictate of anonymity.”

As reported by Bar and Bench while citing the Supreme Court order, The Supreme Court also gave the SBI chairman a deadline and asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to upload details directing the the SBI chairman to submit an affidavit at 5 pm, Thursday stating that no information has been withheld from disclosure in terms of directions given in para 221 and that ECI would upload the details as soon as it receives the data from SBI." 

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