Supreme Court Slams CBI Over Non-Disclosure Of Electoral Bonds Details

New Delhi: In a stern rebuke to the State Bank of India (SBI), the Supreme Court on Monday (March 11) criticised the bank for its non-disclosure of electoral bonds details and put it on notice that contempt proceedings will be initiated if it fails to comply with the latest directions mandating disclosure by tomorrow, i.e., March 12.

During the courtroom exchange, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud pointedly questioned the SBI’s progress since the court’s judgment on February 15.

“Our judgment is dated February 15. Today is March 11. In the last 26 days, what is the extent of matching done by you? The affidavit is silent on this. We expect a degree of candour from the State Bank of India,” remarked the chief justice. Senior Advocate Harish Salve, representing the SBI, sought to defend its request for an extension of the deadline initially set by the apex court. He argued that the matching of information to ascertain who contributed to which political party is a time-consuming process since the information is maintained in two separate silos.

The senior counsel told the court, “We don’t want to create any havoc by making any mistake…Give us a little time. We’ll do it.” However, Justice Sanjiv Khanna interjected, saying, “There is no question of any mistake. You have the KYC. This is the number 1 bank in the country. We expect them to be able to handle this.” Chief Justice Chandrachud also pointed out that the court’s directions did not require a ‘matching exercise’, but simply a ‘plain disclosure’ of the information available with the bank and directed it to disclose the information by the close of business hours of March 12, 2024.

The order, pronounced by Chief Justice Chandrachud, noted, “…The State Bank of India has submitted that the donor details and redemption details are available, albeit in separate silos. In other words, the direction issued by this court requires the bank to disclose information which is already available with it.”

Additionally, while refusing to initiate contempt proceedings against the SBI at the moment, the court cautioned that it would proceed against the bank for wilful disobedience if it fails to comply with the latest directions. The relevant portion of the order states –

“The State Bank of India shall file an affidavit of its chairperson and managing director on compliance with the directions issued above. While we are not inclined to exercise the contempt jurisdiction at this time, we place the State Bank of India on notice that this court may be inclined to proceed against it for wilful disobedience if it does not comply with the timelines indicated in this order.”

This move by the apex court comes less than a month after a constitution bench declared the electoral bonds scheme unconstitutional. The bench had directed the SBI to submit details of electoral bonds purchased since April 12, 2019, to the Election Commission of India by March 6. However, the SBI sought an extension until June 30, citing the complexity of decoding and compiling data from the sale of these bonds.

Today, a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra heard the SBI’s application for an extension, along with contempt petitions filed by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Common Cause, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) against the public sector bank.

( Courtesy Live Law)

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