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Citizens have no right to know funding of political parties: Govt to SC

Citizens have no right to know funding of political parties: Govt to SC

New Delhi: Attorney General for India R Venkataramani has told the Supreme Court that citizens do not have the right to information about the funding of political parties.

The AG refuted the argument of the petitioners, who challenged the electoral bonds scheme, that citizens have the right to know about the source of funding of a political party.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud is hearing petitions challenging the constitutional validity of anonymous electoral bonds scheme on October 31, Tuesday.

“Firstly, there can be no general right to know anything and everything without being subjected to reasonable restrictions. Secondly, the right to know as necessary for expression can be for specific ends or purposes and not otherwise," the AG said.

He further stated that the judgments upholding the citizens’ right to know of the criminal antecedents of candidates cannot be extrapolated to mean that they have the right to information regarding the funding of parties.

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Electoral bonds were introduced in 2017 and are similar to promissory notes. Citizens and bodies incorporated in India can buy these bonds and donate anonymously to political parties.

The BJP has been the biggest gainer ever since these bonds were introduced. The BJP received Rs 5,270 crore from 2018-2022, while the Congress received Rs 964 crore and the Trinamool Congress came third with Rs 767 crore.

Petitioners had contended that just as the criminal antecedents of candidates are made public, so should the finances of political parties.

However, the AG said that the judgement on criminal antecedents cannot be extrapolated on electoral bonds.

He also claimed that the electoral bonds scheme floated by the union government does not impinge upon any existing right of any person and cannot be said to be repugnant to any fundamental rights contained under Part III of the Constitution.

In his brief submissions filed before the apex court, the top-most law officer of the Union government said that any law which is not repugnant to the fundamental rights of citizens cannot be voided for any other reason.

"Judicial review is not about scanning state policies for the purposes of suggesting better or different prescriptions," Venkataramani told the Supreme Court.

He added that the judgments rendered by the apex court in the past cannot be read as to suggest that a citizen has a right to information under Art. 19(1)(a) regarding funding of political parties.

"The scheme in question extends the benefit of confidentiality to the contributor. It ensures and promotes clean money being contributed. It ensures abiding by tax obligations. Thus, it does not fall foul of any existing right. A constitutional court reviews state action only if it impinges upon existing rights and not because State action has not provided for a possible right or an expectation, howsoever desirable," read short submissions filed by Venkataramani.

As per the cause list published on the website of the apex court, the five-judge bench headed by CJI DY Chandrachud comprises Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra.

The pleas challenging the electoral bonds scheme were referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench by the Supreme Court's earlier constituted three-judge bench, in view of the importance of the issue raised having regard to Article 145(4) of the Constitution.

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TAGS:Supreme CourtUnion governmentElectoral bondsIndia News
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