Early this year the government introduced an Electoral Bond Scheme purportedly with a view to cleansing the prevailing culture of political sponsorship. But there is a belief that this programme will fail to deliver what is was intended to.
Now Lets understand, What is Electoral Bond Scheme ?
An electoral bond is designed to be a bearer instrument like a Promissory Note — in effect, it will be similar to a bank note that is payable to the bearer on demand and free of interest. It can be purchased by any citizen of India or a body incorporated in India.
How do you use it?
The bonds will be issued in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore and will be available at specified branches of State Bank of India. They can be bought by the donor with a KYC-compliant account. Donors can donate the bonds to their party of choice which can then be cashed in via the party’s verified account within 15 days.
What are the other conditions?
Every party that is registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and has secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election will be allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India. Electoral bond transactions can be made only via this account.
Motive behind Electoral Bond Scheme :-
The electoral bonds will not bear the name of the donor. In essence, the donor and the party details will be available with the bank, but the political party might not be aware of who the donor is. The intention is to ensure that all the donations made to a party will be accounted for in the balance sheets without exposing the donor details to the public.
Now Where does the problem lies ?
1.) The government claims that since these bonds are purchased through banking channels the scheme will eliminate the infusion of black money into electoral funding. But not only is this argument clearly false.
For example :- The scheme allows for complete anonymity of the donor. Neither the purchaser of the bond nor the political party receiving the donation is mandated to disclose the donor’s identity. Therefore, not only will, say, the shareholders of a corporation be unaware of the company’s contributions, but the voters too will have no idea of how, and through whom, a political party has been funded.
2.) The programme also removes an existing condition that had prohibited companies from donating anything more than 7.5% of their average net-profit over the previous three years. This now means that even loss-making entities can make unlimited contributions.
3.) Additionally, the requirement that a corporation ought to have been in existence for at least three years before it could make donations — a system that was meant to stop shell concerns from being created with a view purely to syphoning money into politics — has also been removed.
Petitions in Supreme Court :-
As petitions filed in the Supreme Court point out, the scheme suffers from at least two foundational defects.
- One, that it was incorporated on the back of a series of amendments made to legislation, including the Representation of the People Act, the Income Tax Act and the Companies Act, which were introduced in the form of a money bill.
Money Bill :-
Article 110 of the Constitution allows the Speaker to classify a proposed legislation as a money bill, only when the draft law deals with all or any of the subjects enlisted in the provision. These subjects comprise a set of seven features, including items such as the imposition of a tax, the regulation of the borrowing of money by the government, the custody of the Consolidated Fund of India, the appropriation of money out of the consolidated fund, and any matter incidental to the subjects explicitly mentioned in Article 110. The provisions pertaining to the electoral bond scheme does not tend to fall within any of these categories. The Finance Act, through which these amendments were introduced, therefore did not deal with only those matters contained in Article 110.
- Two, that the scheme defy a number of fundamental rights.
The scheme is equally destructive in its subversion of the fundamental rights to equality and freedom of expression. There’s no doubt that the Constitution does not contain an explicitly enforceable right to vote. But implicit in its guarantees of equality and free speech is a right to knowledge and information. Our courts have nearly consistently seen “freedom of voting” as distinct from the right to vote, as a facet of the right to freedom of expression and as an essential condition of political equality. In the absence of complete knowledge about the identities of those funding the various different parties, it’s difficult to conceive how a citizen can meaningfully participate in political and public life. When the power of that vote is diluted through opacity in political funding, democracy as a whole loses its intrinsic value.
Fifteen crore individuals, better known as the Denotified Tribes (DNT) of India, continue to be considered ‘criminal by birth’.
The term, ‘De-notified and Nomadic Tribes’, can be traced to the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871. The colonial government notified nearly 200 tribal communities to be hereditary criminals, cementing their societal identity as outcasts and subjecting them to constant harassment by the administration. After India gained Independence, these tribes were ‘de-notified’ from the list of Criminal Tribes, and, hence, the term.
Many reasons :-
Several reasons can be ascribed to state-sanctioned stigmatisation of the DNTs in India under British rule, including the strategy to identify their allies and at the same time, subdue and monitor activities of rebellious tribal communities in India.
CTA Criminal Tribes Act 1871 :-
The CTA allowed for close supervision and control over the mobility of the tribes which were notified by the provincial governments. The Act was amended in 1897, 1908 and 1911 to give sweeping powers to the authorities, some as draconian as allowing the state to remove any child of the age of six and above from its ‘criminal’ parents. By 1924, certain provisions were amended, and the Act was finally applicable to the whole of British India. Along with the introduction of laws such as the Forest Acts and the Salt Tax Act, the British threw a noose around the the lives of DNTs using stringent regulations.
Repeal of CTA :-
It is only in independent India that the need was felt to shift the collective burden of criminality to the individual, which led to the CTA being repealed and the Habitual Offenders Act (HOA) being enacted in various States. Not all States enacted it, Currently, a variant of the HOA Model Bill as proposed by the Union Government then stands enforced in 10 States across the country, having been enacted in many more.
What are the problems in HOA ?
The HOA functioned as a mere extension of the CTA.
- Nomadic and semi-nomadic communities continued to face harassment at the hands of law enforcement agencies. Certainly, the mere repeal of the CTA could not change the mindset of government officials or members of society.
- Given their centuries-old tradition of constant movement, they often do not possess any residential proof, which leaves them out of the majority of the government’s developmental schemes. Those deemed eligible for such schemes were randomly grouped under the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes or Other Backward Classes categories. As a result, most members of the DNTs continue to be out of the orbit of steps being taken to end discrimination.
National Commission for Denotified Nomadic & Semi Nomadic Tribes :-
To address these issues, the first National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) was constituted in 2003, and reconstituted two years later under the chairpersonship of Balkrishna Renke, which submitted its report in 2008.
The recommendations found an echo in the Idate Commission, constituted with the similar mandate in 2015, and currently withholding public release of its report. However, denied funding by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in fulfilling its mandate of carrying out survey and field validation work, the Idate Commission Report lacks the scientific data necessary to introduce reforms to address the plight of DNTs.
The NCDNT report clearly recommends repealing the various HOAs. This has also been the constant refrain of community leaders, representatives and civil society organisations — as the Act still casts its shadow of the state on communities.
A chance to make amends :- A mere repeal of the law will not address their need for establishing society-wide changes to gain access to political-social-economic welfare. Thus, the repeal of the HOA has to be accompanied by a slew of legal reforms to address the multitude of issues DNT communities face.
- Their unique lifestyle requires positive affirmation and development policies that cater to their long-standing and overlooked needs.
- It should be the duty of the government to be proactive and reach out to the DNTs since the latter would understandably refrain from seeking state help.