HuffPost India did an expose on electoral bonds and has since Monday published the story in four parts, the fifth part of which will be published tomorrow (Friday).
In February 2017, then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in his Budget speech, announced the electoral bonds scheme, under which a donor could anonymously buy a bond and donate the same to the political party of their choice.
In the fourth part of its expose, HuffPost India has claimed, with the help of supporting documents, that the bonds bought carried a secret alphanumeric code that the State Bank of India (SBI) uses to keep track of who bought how many bonds.
There’s more to it. It’s not that the government was not aware of this. This entire mechanism of tracking bonds was approved by the Finance Ministry.
So, the government can really know who bought the bonds and to which political party was it given to. The only people deprived of this information are opposition parties and the common man.
Now, when this scheme was announced, the Modi government had no clue as to how would these bonds work. Consultations were done with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Election Commission of India (ECI) and opposition parties, but as reported by HuffPost India, their suggestions were conveniently ignored.
HuffPost India reports that SBI, in a meeting with the Finance Ministry on January 16, 2018, explained the importance of serial numbers of bonds.
“Electoral bonds will not bear the name of the buyer or payee, but will necessarily need a serial number,” HuffPost India quoted bank officials as saying at that Finance Ministry meeting, according to internal notes of the ministry.
Also read: 43.22 per cent of unaccounted cash in Rs 2,000 notes
The SBI further explained that without the serial numbers, there would be no audit trail available for internal control and reconciliation of the bonds by the bank. Also, the bank would have no answer if courts and law enforcement agencies asked it for details on the purchaser of the bonds.
HuffPost India has shown documents which prove that the Finance Ministry agreed with the SBI.
“Bank (SBI) may be allowed to put a serial number on the bonds to avoid these complications for the banks and also for the scheme. However, the bank may be advised to keep information highly confidential to prevent its leaking in any way,” senior officials of the Finance Ministry said in their internal notings.
It would not be wrong to say that the government can easily get information regarding the buyer of electoral bonds and to which party has he/she donated to. Why? Because as per Section 6(4) of the January 2, 2018 notification, “The information furnished by the buyer shall be treated confidential by the authorised bank and shall not be disclosed to any authority for any purposes, except when demanded by a competent court or upon registration of criminal case by any law enforcement agency.”
Law enforcement agencies such as CBI has been described as a “caged parrot” by none other than the Supreme Court.
In such a case, it’s really easy for the government to get hold of such information through law enforcement agencies.
Read complete HuffPost India’s story here: