The government has shelled out Rs 4.10 crore to the State Bank of India (SBI) as commission for the sale of electoral bonds over 13 phases to donors of political parties. This is in addition to the Rs 1.86 crore spent on printing these bonds.

In a reply to an RTI application filed by Lokesh Gupta, the SBI said the total commission payable by the government to the bank, for 15 phases of bond sales, amounts to Rs 4.35 crore. While Rs 4.10 crore of this has been paid, “Commission for 14th and 15th phases… has not been paid till date.”

A total of 6,64,250 electoral bonds had been printed till date from the time the scheme was introduced in 2018, the bank said. The total donations through electoral bonds have touched Rs 6,535 crore.

According to the SBI, no commission has been paid by the government towards printing of the bonds, but printing charges amounting to Rs 1,86,05,720, inclusive of the GST, have been paid till date.

The SBI sold electoral bonds worth Rs 42.10 crore in the 15th phase of sale from January 1 to 10, 2021. Bonds worth Rs 282 crore were sold by it in October ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections.

Donors, mainly corporate houses and industrialists, gave Rs 1,056.73 crore in 2018, Rs 5,071.99 crore in 2019 and Rs 363.96 crore in 2020, the SBI had said in a previous RTI reply to The Indian Express.

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear on March 24 a plea seeking a direction to the Central government and others to not open any further window for sale of electoral bonds during the pendency of a PIL filed by an NGO pertaining to funding of political parties and alleged lack of transparency.

The NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms, claimed that any further sale of bonds before the coming Assembly elections, including in West Bengal, Kerala and Assam, would further “increase illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies”.


Anonymous donations

Electoral bonds are purchased anonymously by donors, and are valid for 15 days from the date of issue. A debt instrument, these can be bought by donors from a bank, and the political party can then encash the bonds. These can be redeemed only by an eligible political party by depositing the same in its designated bank account maintained with an authorised bank.

The bonds are issued by the SBI in denominations of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore.

Political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which have secured not less than 1% of the votes in the last general election to an Assembly or Parliament, are eligible to open current accounts for redemption of electoral bonds.

“The information furnished by the purchaser shall be treated confidential by State Bank of India and shall not be disclosed to any authority for any purposes, except when demanded by a competent court or upon registration of criminal case by any law enforcement agency,” operating guidelines by the SBI state.

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