SBI Refuses to Disclose Electoral Bond Guidelines Despite RTI Query


GG News Bureau
New Delhi, 2nd April. 
After being criticized by the Supreme Court regarding the electoral bonds issue, the State Bank of India has refused to disclose the Standard Operating Procedures given to its branches for the sale and redemption of bonds under the now-defunct scheme.

Anjali Bhardwaj, a transparency activist, filed an RTI petition seeking information about the SOPs set by the bank for the electoral bonds scheme.

In a response from SBI’s Deputy General Manager M Kanna Babu, the bank stated that the SOPs were internal guidelines and exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI law. This section pertains to information such as commercial confidence, trade secrets, or intellectual property that could harm the competitive position of a third party.

The petitioner criticized the bank for invoking the exemption clause without explaining how the disclosure would harm a third party’s competitive position. She plans to challenge the denial in an appeal.

Following a Supreme Court ruling in February that invalidated the electoral bonds scheme, SBI was reprimanded for delaying the sharing of bond details with the Election Commission of India. Despite requesting three months to share the data, the court ordered the bank to make the information public within two days or face contempt proceedings.

After initially withholding bond numbers, SBI eventually shared all relevant information related to the poll bonds scheme. The Supreme Court’s decision to scrap the scheme was based on concerns that it violated citizens’ right to information and could lead to corrupt practices between political parties and donors.

The court emphasized that electoral bonds were not the only solution to combat black money and criticized the lack of transparency and accountability in the scheme.

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