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SC directs SBI to submit all conceivable details of electoral bonds by Mar 21

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the State Bank of India (SBI) to disclose all ‘conceivable’ details available with it regarding electoral bonds, including the alphanumerical number and serial number, for any of the bonds purchased.

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said that to avoid any controversy in the future, the chairperson of the bank should file an affidavit by 5 PM on Thursday stating that it has disclosed all details in its custody and that no details have been withheld.” The court directed.

The Court stated that its February 15 judgment mandated the SBI to disclose “all details,” including the date of purchase or redemption, the name of the purchaser or recipient, and the denomination. The use of the word “including” means that the details specified in the judgment are illustrative and not exhaustive.

The Court had further directed that the Election Commission of India upload on its website the details received from the SBI forthwith upon their receipt.

Last week, the same Constitutional Bench, comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, heard the plea of the Election Commission, which sought to return the sealed documents containing details of electoral bonds furnished earlier to the court as they had not retained any copies of the said documents.

During last week’s hearing, the five-judge bench stressed the need for the State Bank of India (SBI) to disclose the alphanumeric number corresponding to each electoral bond, along with the details it has already disclosed regarding the purchase and redemption of the bonds. Accordingly, the Apex Court issued notice to the SBI and directed the matter to be posted for hearing on Monday, March 18.

The CJI said, “In the judgment, we had specifically asked the State Bank of India to disclose ‘all details.’ That includes the bond numbers as well. The bank cannot be selective in disclosing all details. Do not wait for the orders of this court.”

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the State Bank of India, said, “If the numbers are to be given, we will give them. That’s no problem.” He defended the bank by saying that the current status of the disclosure was based on its understanding of the court’s interim directive in April 2019. To this end, the chief justice reiterated, “When we say, ‘all details,’ it includes all conceivable data. This interim order has merged with our final judgment. We will clarify that and say that the State Bank of India will not only file the bond numbers but also ask it to submit an affidavit saying that it has not suppressed any details. The onus should not be on the court.”

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing FICCI and ASSOCHAM, tried to convince the court that the disclosure of the bond numbers should be deferred.

To this, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud responded, “We have no such application on board.” When Rohatgi sought to press his application on behalf of industrialists, he questioned how the information could be asked to be disclosed when there was a guarantee of anonymity.

To this, Chief Justice Chandrachud replied, “Mr. Rohatgi, there is only one answer. With effect from April 12, 2019, we directed the collection of details. Everyone was put on notice at the time. This is why we did not ask for the disclosure of the bonds sold prior to this interim order, as the CJI clarified.

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