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'Bulk of Electoral Bonds Given as Quid Pro Quo Arrangements': Plea in SC Seeks SIT Probe

The petitioners say that "some of the country’s main investigative agencies such as the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department appear to have become accessories to corruption".
Photo: Ravi Roshan/Pexels.

New Delhi: The NGO Common Cause and the Centre for Public Interest Litigation have filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a special investigation team (SIT) probe into the electoral bonds scheme.

In February this year, the court had struck down the scheme, calling it “unconstitutional”. The court also directed the State Bank of India and Election Commission of India to make public all details associated with the sale and purchase of these bonds, so that voters can see if any quid pro quo arrangements were made between corporate donors and political parties.

The petitioners have pointed out that reports since the data was revealed have highlighted several such instances which need to be probed:

“The electoral bond data that has been revealed shows that the bulk of the bonds appear to have been given as quid pro quo arrangements by corporates to political parties for: (a) getting contracts/licences/leases/clearances/approvals worth thousands and sometimes lakhs of crores and other benefits from the governments or authorities controlled by the governments which were in turn controlled by the political parties that received those bonds, (b) electoral bonds given in close proximity to action by agencies like the ED/IT/CBIraising suspicion of it being “protection” money to avoid/ stall action by or in exchange for regulatory inaction by various regulators like the drug controller etc. and (c) electoral bonds given as a consideration for favourable policy changes.

Though these apparent pay offs amount to several thousand crores, they appear to have influenced contracts worth lakhs of crores and regulatory inaction by agencies worth of thousands of crores and also appear to have allowed substandard or dangerous drugs to be sold in the market, endangering the lives of millions of people in the country. That is why the electoral bonds scam has been called by many astute observers as the largest scam in India so far, and perhaps in the world.

…Data has further shown that various loss-making companies and shell companies were donating huge sums to political parties through electoral bonds. Data suggests that the introduction of electoral bonds led to the mushrooming of shell companies,which were used by corporate houses as conduits to launder illicit money. This is evident from the fact that many companies having little or no profits gave large donations to many political parties, especially the ruling party. In this way, laundered money has found its way into the coffers of the political parties. The source of funds donated by these shell companies is unknown and a matter of investigation, since the names and KYC status of these companies have evidently been used by other entities to launder their illicit money and curry favour with the political parties in power.”

The petitioners continue that the revelations also indicate that “some of the country’s main investigative agencies such as the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department appear to have become accessories to corruption”, as companies facing probes have donated to the ruling party perhaps to change the outcome of these investigations.

The petition has been filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan.

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