The Supreme Court delivered a landmark ruling on Thursday, invalidating a controversial electoral funding mechanism known as electoral bonds, which permitted anonymous contributions to political parties. This ruling holds significant implications, particularly as it precedes the forthcoming national elections expected in April.

Electoral bonds had emerged as a pivotal avenue for political financing, allowing contributors to donate funds anonymously by purchasing certificates from designated banks. However, advocates for transparency have long criticized this practice, arguing that it undermines accountability within the world’s largest democracy.

Critics have vehemently condemned the electoral bond system, labeling it as a veiled means of channeling “black money” to political entities. The ruling, delivered by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, highlighted the scheme’s infringement upon voters’ right to information. It emphasized that disclosure regarding political party funding is vital for the electorate to make informed voting decisions.

Under this scheme, individuals and corporations could procure electoral bonds from the government-owned State Bank of India (SBI). These bonds, which were both anonymous and exempt from taxation, could then be allocated to political parties in exchange for cash. Available in denominations ranging from 1,000 rupees to 10 million rupees, the scheme raised concerns about enabling substantial anonymous contributions to political parties.

Moreover, critics raised apprehensions regarding the potential for governmental access to donor information through the state-owned SBI. In response to these concerns, the Supreme Court struck down the electoral bond scheme, including its associated provisions.

Prashant Bhushan, representing the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), one of the petitioners in the case, hailed the court’s decision outside the Supreme Court in New Delhi. He underscored that the ruling upheld citizens’ fundamental right to information, emphasizing the necessity for transparency regarding political contributions.

Additionally, the court invalidated the practice of unrestricted corporate contributions to political parties.

The opposition Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, welcomed the verdict, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of exploiting the bond system for unethical purposes. Gandhi characterized it as a medium for facilitating bribery and commissions, echoing broader concerns about the integrity of the electoral process.

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