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  India   All India  16 Mar 2024  SC pulls up SBI for not sharing serial numbers

SC pulls up SBI for not sharing serial numbers

Published : Mar 16, 2024, 1:36 am IST
Updated : Mar 16, 2024, 1:36 am IST

The unique alphanumeric numbers will help identify the buyers of the electoral bonds and the parties that encashed them

Supreme Court (PTI)
 Supreme Court (PTI)

NEW DELHI: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said the State Bank of India (SBI) was “duty bound” and has to disclose the unique alphanumeric numbers of the electoral bonds received by political parties.

The unique alphanumeric numbers will help identify the buyers of the electoral bonds and the parties that encashed them.

The apex court also sought a response from the bank for not disclosing the details as per its earlier directives regarding disclosure of all the details of bonds, including the purchaser, amount and date of purchase.

The bench, also comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice B.R. Gavai, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, issued notice to the SBI and posted the matter for hearing on March 18.

Pulling up the public sector banker, the CJI said, "Who is appearing for the SBI? Because in our judgement, we had directed disclosure specifically of all details of the bonds, including the purchaser, the amount and the date of purchase. They have not disclosed the bond numbers. That has to be disclosed by the SBI."

"They (SBI) have not disclosed the bond numbers. That has to be disclosed by the SBI," the CJI said. "But really speaking, we can take exception to what they have disclosed because they were duty-bound," he added.

During the hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the apex court's verdict was quite clear — that the SBI shall furnish all the details of electoral bonds to the EC.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner NGO, said the SBI had said in its application filed in the top court seeking an extension of time to furnish the details to EC that it has the bond numbers.

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta said he was appearing for the Centre and not for the SBI. "Would your lordships consider issuing notice to the SBI. They may have something to say," he said.

"The judgement of the Constitution Bench required the SBI to furnish to the EC all details of the electoral bonds purchased and, as the case may be, redeemed by political parties, including the date of purchase... It has been submitted that the SBI has not disclosed the alpha-numeric numbers of the electoral bonds," the bench said.

"We direct the registry to issue notice to the SBI returnable on Monday (March 18)," it said.

The notice to the SBI came while the apex court was hearing an application filed by the Election Commission seeking a modification of the operative portion of its March 11 order in the electoral bonds case.

EC's counsel said they have filed an application for a minor modification of the March 11 order, which also directed that the poll panel upload on its website the data furnished to the court.

The EC requested the apex court that the documents be returned to it so as to enable it to comply with the March 11 order for uploading the documents.

To this, the bench said, "The registrar (judicial) of this court shall ensure that the data that has been filed by the EC in pursuance of interim orders of this court is scanned and digitised." It further said that this exercise may preferably be carried out by 5 pm on Saturday.

Once this exercise is completed, the original documents shall be returned to the EC's counsel and the poll panel shall then upload the data on its website.

The bench said a copy of the scanned and digitised file shall also be made available to the EC's counsel.

Following the directions passed by the apex court in its April 12, 2019, and November 2, last year orders, the EC had produced the information and data so sought, both in a sealed cover (containing 106 sealed envelopes) and in sealed boxes (containing 309 and 214 sealed envelopes, respectively).

On April 12, 2019, the apex court had issued an interim order directing that information about donations received and donations that will be received must be submitted by political parties to the EC in a sealed cover.

In its March 11 order, the top court had dismissed the SBI's plea seeking an extension of time and ordered it to disclose the details of electoral bonds to the EC by the close of business hours on March 12.

The court had also directed the EC to publish the details shared by the bank on its official website by 5 pm on March 15.

The EC, however, put up on its website the data on electoral bonds on Thursday, a day before the deadline.

Earlier on February 15, the top court had scrapped the Centre's electoral bonds scheme that allowed anonymous political funding, calling it "unconstitutional".

Tags: supreme court of india, state bank of india (sbi), electoral bonds
Location: India, Delhi