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The electoral bonds launched by the Union government to make anonymous donations to political parties can be purchased through cheque, demand draft and electronic transfer from only 53 out of over 24,000 branches of State Bank of India (SBI) across the country, according to the notification.
Electoral bonds can be purchased from SBI’s branch in the capital city of all the states and union territories. However, two branches of SBI each in Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are authorised to sell the electoral bonds. In Uttar Pradesh, three additional branches and in Maharashtra and Telangana two more branches apart from its capital city will sell electoral bonds. The SBI has 24,017 branches across the country as on 1 April 2017.
“The information furnished by the buyer shall be treated confidential by the authorised bank and shall not be disclosed to any authority for any purposes, except when demanded by a competent court or upon a registration of criminal case by any law enforcement agency,” the notification issued by the Ministry of Finance on January 2 said.
The notification also makes it clear that an application to purchase the electoral bonds, which can also be made online, will be rejected if the know your customer (KYC) documents – voter ID, passport or Aadhaar – is not submitted by the purchaser. Although KYC documents are mandatory, the bonds will not carry the name of the person buying it.
Political parties need to encash the bonds by depositing in their SBI bank accounts within 15 days of its purchase failing which the donation amount will go towards the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund, the notification said. Political parties registered under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and secured at least 1% votes polled in the last Lok Sabha or state Assembly elections will be eligible to receive the bond – keeping the new political parties out of its ambit.
These bonds will be an interest-free debt instrument, resembling promissory notes and can be purchased in the multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 100,000, Rs 1 million, and Rs 10 million. The bonds can be purchased “either singly or jointly with other individuals.”
“The element of transparency is that the balance sheet of donors will reflect that they have bought a certain amount of bonds, and political parties will also file their returns (to the Election Commission) that will reflect the extent of electoral bonds received,” Jaitley had said in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, while announcing the broad framework of the bonds.
The finance minister had said a large portion of the source of political funding was undisclosed at present, as most donations were made in cash. Last year, the government had reduced the maximum cash donations to political parties to Rs 2,000, from the earlier limit of Rs 20,000.
According to an ADR analysis, national and regional parties received Rs 78.33 billion funding between 2004-05 and 2014-15, 69 per cent of their total income, from unknown sources. The analysis showed that 83 per cent income of the Indian National Congress and 65 per cent income of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came from unknown sources during this period.