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Electoral Bonds: SC nixes SBI plea for more time to provide details

Why is it in the news?

  • The Supreme Court dismissed an application by the State Bank of India (SBI) for an extension until June 30, 2024, to provide details of electoral bonds purchased anonymously and their encashment by political parties.

 More about the news

  • The court mandated that the SBI must provide these details to the Election Commission of India (ECI) within 24 hours, by the close of business hours on March 12.
  • The information required by the court was deemed readily available with the bank, and once provided, the ECI is to publish the data on its official website by March 15.
  • Initially, the judgment required the SBI to disclose complete details of electoral bonds purchased from April 12, 2019, to February 15, 2024, including dates of purchase, names of purchasers, denominations of bonds purchased, and details of bonds redeemed by political parties.
  • The SBI’s request for an extension until June 30 was made just two days before the initial deadline of March 6, citing the complexity of the task due to information being stored in separate silos and not in a digital format.
  • However, the court clarified that it did not ask the bank to match information to ascertain contributors to political parties but only to comply with the judgment.
  • The Chief Justice emphasized that the SBI had not mentioned its actions in the past 26 days since the judgment and criticized the choice of an Assistant General Manager to file the application in response to a Constitution Bench judgment.
  • While the court did not initiate contempt proceedings immediately, it put the bank on notice, warning of potential action if it fails to comply with the directions issued on March 11.
  • Contempt petitions filed by various organizations alleged that the SBI was intentionally delaying the disclosure of donor details before the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April-May.

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