What did Justice Katju say on the electoral bond verdict?

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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The electoral bond verdict

By Justice Markandey Katju

The recent verdict of the Indian Supreme Court invalidating the electoral bond scheme is being widely hailed as a great victory for Indian democracy.

Under the Electoral Bond Scheme of the Union Finance Ministry, businessmen and corporates could donate to a political party while remaining anonymous.

It is claimed that the verdict will ensure a level playing field to political parties in elections

According to Chief Justice Chandrachud, who headed the 5 member bench which delivered the verdict, people have the right to know about funding of political parties in order to effectively excercise their franchise

He also observed that non-disclosure of the source of funds promoted corruption and a culture of quid pro quo

I regret to say that in my opinion all this hoopla, fanfare and brouhaha over the verdict is just hot air, rhodomontade and empty bluster and prattle, and reminds me of a line in Shakespeare's Macbeth '' It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing ''.

Does Chief Justice Chandrachud and his brother judges seriously believe that the Indian voter when casting his vote during elections cares two hoots who has funded the candidate/party for which he is voting? If they do, let me tell them they are absolutely mistaken, and living in La-la Land.

Most voters in India, when they go to cast their vote, see only the caste or religion of the candidate (or the caste/religion which his party claims to represent). Who funds them is furthest from the voter's mind.

What figures in the voter's mind (apart from the candidate's caste or religion) is who has built the 'bhavya' ( magnificent ) Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, or who is demanding restoration of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi or the Shahi Masjid in Mathura as Hindu temples ?

Far from reducing corruption, I submit this verdict will not even create a dent on this widespread phenomenon in India and Indian politics. Businessmen and corporates are smart people, and will surely find out some other way to make donations to political parties while remaining anonymous.

It must be understood that politics in India is an expensive affair. A candidate contesting for a Lok Sabha seat often spends well over Rs 10-20 crores. Where does he get this money from ? Obviously from businessmen/corporates, for whom it is an investment for a quid pro quo (if the candidate wins). Wise businessmen will pay money to both the opposing candidates, so that whoever wins is beholden to the businessman. This is his smart way of hedging a bet.

When Congress was in power ( which was for several decades since Independence ), it used to get the lion's share of donations by big businessmen/corporates. Since the BJP came to power in 2014 it is its turn.

I regret pouring cold water on all this revelry, merrymaking, festivity, braggadocio and jollification over this verdict, but I suppose it is left to me to bell the cat.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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