The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed an application of State Bank of India (SBI) seeking an extension of time till June 30 to submit details of Electoral Bonds to the Election Commission of India and asked the bank to disclose the details by March 12.
A five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra ordered that the details be disclosed by the bank on March 12.
The apex court also directed the Election Commission of India to compile the information to be furnished by the SBI and publish the details on its official website no later than March 15, 2024 by 5 pm.
In its February 15 judgement, the apex court had set the deadline for SBI as March 6. The apex court had said that by March 13, the ECI should publish the details of Electoral Bonds on its official website.
The SBI last week moved the top court seeking an extension till June 30 to comply with the court’s directions.
Passing the order on SBI’s application today, the bench ordered, “Submissions of SBI in application indicates that information sought is readily available. Thus, the application by SBI seeking extension of time until June 30 is dismissed. SBI is directed to disclose the details by the close of business hours of March 12, 2024.”
“As regards the Election Commission of India, we direct them to compile the information and publish the information on their website no later than by 5 pm on March 15, 2024,” it ordered.
The Constitution bench also warned the SBI of contempt of court against it for wilfully disobeying its order in the event of non-compliance with the latest directions.
“Though we are not exercising the contempt jurisdiction, but we place SBI on notice that this court will proceed against it for wilful disobedience if it does not comply with the timelines indicated in this order,” ordered the bench.
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Common Cause, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have moved contempt petition against the bank over its non-disclosure of details related to electoral bonds despite the apex court’s directives.
During the hearing, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for SBI, said that the bank needs extra time to disclose details of electoral bonds encashed by political parties.
There are certain practical difficulties with the decoding exercised and the timeline fixed for it, said the bank.

In response, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) pointed out that the court’s directions did not require the bank to conduct a ‘matching exercise’ but simply to disclose the information and noted that the bank had the necessary details, as evidenced by its KYC records.
“What you are saying is that there are two different information silos and rematching them would require significant effort. But, if you see the directions we issued, we did not ask you to do this matching exercise. We have simply directed plain disclosure. The grounds on which you seek additional time do not accord at all with the directions we issued,” the bench added.
On February 15, the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had asked the SBI to furnish details of the political parties which received Electoral Bonds since April 12, 2019, and all the particulars received and submit them to the Election Commission of India by March 6.
In the application seeking an extension of time, the SBI said due to the stringent measures undertaken to ensure that the identity of the donors was kept anonymous, “decoding” of the Electoral Bonds and the matching of the donor to the donations made would be a complex process.
The retrieval of information from “each silo” and the procedure of matching the information of one silo to that of the other would be a time-consuming exercise, it stated.
“It is submitted that details of purchases made at the Branches are not maintained centrally at any one place, such as the name of purchaser/donor which could be tallied with Date of Issue, Place of Issue (Branch), Denomination of Bond, Bond Number. The data related to the issuance of the bond and the data related to the redemption of the bond was kept recorded in two different silos. No central database was maintained. This was done so as to ensure that donors’ anonymity would be protected,” it added.
The bank told the apex court that donors’ details were kept sealed at some branches. They were later deposited in the main branch of the applicant bank, located in Mumbai, it added.
The timeline of three weeks fixed by the court in its judgement dated February 15 would not be sufficient for the entire exercise to be completed, said the bank, adding that, therefore, an extension of time be granted by the court in order to enable the SBI to comply with the judgement.
The Supreme Court had struck down the Electoral Bonds Scheme which allowed for anonymous funding to political parties, and ordered the SBI to stop issuing Electoral Bonds immediately.
A five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra had unanimously quashed the Electoral Bonds scheme as well as amendments made to the Income Tax Act and the Representation of People Act which had made the donations anonymous.
It had asked SBI to furnish details and the details about each electoral bonds encashed by the political parties, which shall include the date of encashment and the denomination of electoral bond.
An Electoral Bond is an instrument in the nature of a promissory note or bearer bond which can be purchased by any individual, company, firm or association of persons provided the person or body is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India. The bonds are issued specifically for the purpose of contribution of funds to political parties.
Various petitions were filed before the top court challenging amendments made to different statutes through Finance Act 2017 and Finance Act 2016 on the ground that they have opened doors to unlimited, unchecked funding of political parties. (ANI)