Opacity, Democracy and Political Funding – An Overview of the Indian Electoral Bond System

Om D’costa
V.M. Salgaocar College of Law, Goa.

Volume III, Issue IV, 2020

One of the most effective ways of maintaining the health of a democracy in the long run is to ensure the participation of its people in the functioning of the political system. At any given time, with the legislative system helmed by an all- powerful political party, and the executive, influenced by the will of such party more often than is ignorable as an aberrance- it is information that enables citizens and civil society organizations to keep a check on the functioning of the powers that be, and information which serves as the plank of their challenges to questionable policy decisions and legislative provisions. Thus, information serves as an equalizer, levelling the playing field between the legislature and the executive on one side, and individuals on the other. Political funding has always been a contentious issue in democratic states, for political parties are highly reluctant in disclosing the amounts and sources of the contributions they receive- presumable because of the Pandora’s box of complications that might arise from such disclosures. Prior to certain changes introduced by the Electoral Bond Scheme, there existed adequately comprehensive disclosure norms, which kept a check on almost every stage in the process of making contributions to political parties, and the receipt of these contributions by the latter. The Scheme and related amendments, in contrast, reduce the rigour of the earlier system, and introduce a marked level of opacity in the political funding system. To bring back transparency in the system, essential for the citizens being informed about how political parties are utilizing the thousands of crores they obtain from unknown sources, it is necessary to incorporate changes such as mandatory reporting and audits of political funding and expenditure on a periodical basis, and the disclosure of these reports to the general public.