Editorial: A Victory For Transparency

Editorial: A Victory For Transparency

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Thursday, February 15, 2024, 08:41 PM IST
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Representative Pic | Prasanta Sahoo/Pixabay

Better late than never, the Supreme Court has finally struck down the electoral bond scheme introduced by the BJP government in 2018. However, the six-year delay in doing so raises concerns, emphasising the adage that justice delayed is justice denied. During this period, a total of Rs 16,500 crore was collected by way of such bonds. The scheme, purportedly introduced to cleanse the electoral system, thrived on opaqueness. Individuals or entities could purchase bonds of various denominations in multiples from Rs 1,000 to Rs 10 million from the State Bank and donate them to registered political parties. While the bank would have knowledge of the investors, the government could potentially exert influence to access such details. Unsurprisingly, 54% of the funds ended up benefiting the ruling BJP, leaving the rest to be divided among all registered political parties, with the Congress getting the second single-largest amount.

Despite being earmarked for election-related expenses, these funds could also be diverted to pay cyber warriors and party cadres engaging in political mischief. The Election Commission, though setting an upper spending limit for each constituency, is well aware that candidates and parties often surpass these limits, revealing the ineffectiveness of the bonds in reducing reliance on black money during elections. Furthermore, it opens the door for those with black money to use it to favour their preferred political party. Many investors in these bonds did so with the government assurance that their identities would remain confidential. However, the potential revelation of all bond purchasers' details poses a significant problem for those who trusted in the promise of anonymity. During the petition's hearing, the court issued warnings through orbiter dicta, indicating its perspective. Ideally, the government should have heeded these signals and terminated the controversial scheme.

The questionable nature of the PM Cares Fund, alongside the existence of the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, further underscores the need to scrutinise schemes rooted in opacity within a democratic framework. Any initiative lacking transparency has no rightful place in the democratic processes that should be founded on openness, accountability, and fairness. The Supreme Court's decision is a step toward in upholding these democratic principles, even if it came later than desired. Flush with funds, the BJP might not be affected financially by the verdict, but coming as it does when Parliamentary elections are round the corner is certainly a body blow for the party.

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