Electoral Bonds: Govt Spent Nearly Rs14 Crore, including Commission to SBI, Printing Cost and GST, Reveals RTI
Moneylife Digital Team 17 April 2024
The Union government spent nearly Rs14 crore on electoral bonds, including commission paid to State Bank of India (SBI) for selling the bonds, bill paid for printing the bonds and 18% goods and service tax (GST), reveals information obtained under Right to Information (RTI) Act.
 
Reply received from the department of economic affairs (DEA), under the Union ministry of finance (MoF), by Commodore (Cmde) Lokesh Batra (retd), shows that consequent to the sale of electoral bonds in 30 phases, Rs12.04 crore has been levied (by SBI) as commission, out of which the government has paid Rs11.60 crore for sale of bonds in 29 phases. "Commission for the phase XXX is under consideration for payment," the central public information officer (CPIO) of DEA says.
 
Further, the CPIO says 682,000 electoral bonds have been printed up to 16 April 2024.
  
 
For printing electoral bonds, the government has been charged Rs1.90 crore and Rs6,720 towards a 'device to verify mask-a-print security'. "The final bill for the printing of 8,350 bonds (of Rs1 crore denomination) has not been received by the government of India till date," the CPIO says.
 
To date, the government has paid Rs1.90 crore, including GST, to Indian Security Press (ISP) at Nashik for printing electoral bonds.
 
Separately, the ISP informed Cmde Batra that it has printed and supplied 8,350 electoral bonds with a denomination of Rs1 crore to the Union government. ISP's cost for printing these 8,350 bonds is Rs3.72 lakh.
 
Information provided by the PIO of ISP shows that on 16 different dates from 1 March 2018 to 21 February 2024, it has printed and supplied 6,82,600 electoral bonds to the government. ISP charged Rs1.93 crore, including GST, as printing and supply charges to the Union government.
 
 
Last month, coming down heavily on SBI for sharing selective information on electoral bonds, the Supreme Court directed the lender to completely disclose all details in its possession, including the alphanumeric code on each EB.
 
"In the judgement, we had expressly asked the SBI to disclose all details. The language of the judgement was 'all details will have to be disclosed'. Therefore, that includes the bond number as well. Let SBI not be selective in disclosure of the details," said the constitution bench headed by the chief justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud.
 
"Now, SBI will not only disclose the bond number, but it shall also file an affidavit again saying that it has not withheld any details," the five-judge bench, also comprising justice Sanjiv Khanna, justice BR Gavai, justice JB Padriwala and justice Manoj Misra, said.
 
In response, senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for SBI, said: "We will give every bit of information which we have." 
 
On 20 March 2024, SBI disclosed all the details of the electoral bonds, which were in its possession and custody, to the election commission of India (ECI).
 
On 2 January 2018, the MoF notified the EB scheme. As per the scheme, an electoral bond is a bond issued like a promissory note. It could be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India or entities incorporated or established in India. The bonds were issued in multiples of Rs1,000, Rs10,000, Rs1 lakh, Rs10 lakh and Rs1 crore.
 
These were available at specified branches of SBI, and any account holder compliant with know-your-customer (KYC) norms could buy these bonds. Donors could donate the bonds to their party of choice, which then be encashed by the party's verified account within 15 days. The bond did not carry the name of the buyer or the payee.
 
The recipient political party was not required to disclose who it has received the bond from in its account. Neither did the donor entity have to state to which party it has donated. Also, as per the scheme, only eligible political parties with a 1% vote share were eligible to buy electoral bonds.

 

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