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Electoral Bonds are an interest-free bearer instrument

By Saish Bhise

Electoral Bonds are an interest-free bearer instrument primarily used to donate money anonymously to political parties. The instrument does not carry any information about the buyer or payee and the holder of the instrument (which are mainly the political parties) are presumed to be its owner.

Here are some regulations governing Electoral Bonds:

  1. The bonds are sold in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore,
  2. The State Bank of India (SBI) is the only bank authorised to deal in electoral bonds.
  3. Donors can purchase and subsequently donate the bonds to their party of choice, which the party has to cash out within 15 days.
  4. There is no set limit on the number of bonds an individual or company can purchase.
  5. If a political party hasn't encashed an electoral bond within 15 days then the money is deposited by the SBI into the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.

Recently the Supreme Court of India reserved its order on a plea seeking a stay on the sale of fresh electoral bonds ahead of state assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and in the Union Territory of Puducherry. Prior to the introduction of electoral bonds, political parties had to compulsorily disclose details of all their donors, who had donated more than Rs 20,000. The reason why electoral bonds are being so vehemently opposed by transparency activists is the anonymity provided to donors donating the electoral bonds.

One such activist Dr. Munish Raizada recently tweeted "Make political donations transparent (चन्दा की पारदर्शिता). Ban electoral Bonds and create a transparent way of political donations. At this point, all political parties are generating money via black means".

The lack of transparency worries activists like Dr. Munish Raizada, who is actively working on the issue.

A total of 12,924 electoral bonds worth Rs 6534.78 crore have been sold in about fifteen phases from March 2018 to January 2021. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the biggest beneficiary political party of this scheme. In the subsequent years from 2017 to 2019, political parties in India encashed electoral bonds up to Rs 2,760.20 crore, out of which Rs 1,660.89 cr or 60.17% was received by the BJP alone.


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