Home INDIA In RTI Reply, SBI Refuses To Share Info On Its Electoral Bond Guidelines

In RTI Reply, SBI Refuses To Share Info On Its Electoral Bond Guidelines

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In RTI response, SBI refuses to share information about its guidelines for electoral bonds


The State Bank of India has refused to share the SOPs it used for the electoral bond scheme

New Delhi:

Weeks after the Supreme Court withdrew the issue of issuance of electoral bonds, the State Bank of India has refused to disclose details of the standard operating procedures issued to its branches regarding sale and redemption of bonds under the plan now scrapped.

Transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj had filed a petition under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, seeking information about the SOPs issued by the bank for the electoral bond scheme.

In a response from SBI Deputy Managing Director M. Kanna Babu, the bank has said that the SOPs are internal guidelines and information regarding them is exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act .

This section covers “information, including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that an overriding public interest justifies the disclosure of such information”.

The petitioner said in a statement that the state-owned bank “blandly invoked the exemption clause without demonstrating how the disclosure would ‘harm the competitive position of a third party’. The refusal will be challenged on appeal, she said.

The development comes weeks after the Supreme Court pulled up SBI over its delay in sharing details of electoral bonds with the Election Commission of India. After the landmark ruling in February that scrapped the government bond program, the bank had asked for three months to share the data. However, the court rejected this request and asked them to make the data public within two days. The court also warned that it will initiate contempt proceedings against the bank if it does not make the data public at the earliest.

Shortly after the bank shared the data, it received another reprimand from the court. The court asks why the bank did not make the bond numbers public. Thereafter, the bank shared the details and filed an affidavit stating that it had disclosed all information related to the poll bond scheme.

In its judgment on February 15, the Supreme Court struck down the electoral bond scheme as it violated citizens’ right to information. The plan, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said, was unconstitutional and arbitrary and could lead to a quid pro quo arrangement between political parties and donors.

The five-judge Constitution Bench held that the stated objective of combating black money and maintaining donor confidentiality cannot sustain the scheme. According to the court, electoral bonds are not the only way to curb dirty money.

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