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SBI refuses to disclose Electoral Bond details despite public availability on EC site

In response to Batra's query, SBI said, "Information sought by you is containing details of purchasers and political parties and hence, cannot be disclosed as it is held in fiduciary capacity disclosure of which is exempted under sections 8(1)(e) and (j) of the RTI Act."

SBI refuses to disclose Electoral Bond details despite public availability on EC site AJR
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First Published Apr 11, 2024, 4:08 PM IST

The State Bank of India (SBI) has refused to disclose details of electoral bonds, despite the information being readily available on the Election Commission's website. The bank cited provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act while denying the request for information regarding the now-defunct scheme.

On March 13, RTI activist Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra approached SBI, seeking the complete digital data of electoral bonds, as mandated by a Supreme Court order. However, SBI declined to provide the details, citing sections 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, which pertain to records held in a fiduciary capacity and the withholding of personal information, respectively.

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In response to Batra's query, SBI said, "Information sought by you is containing details of purchasers and political parties and hence, cannot be disclosed as it is held in fiduciary capacity disclosure of which is exempted under sections 8(1)(e) and (j) of the RTI Act."

Batra expressed bewilderment at SBI's refusal, highlighting that the information is already accessible in the public domain. He also sought information regarding the legal fees paid to senior advocate Harish Salve, who represented SBI in the Supreme Court against disclosing the electoral bonds data. However, SBI declined to divulge this information, citing taxpayer money involvement.

The Election Commission had published electoral bonds data provided by SBI on its website on March 14, detailing donors, amounts, and the political parties benefiting from the bonds. However, the top court criticised SBI on March 15 for not furnishing complete information, particularly unique numbers for each electoral bond that would aid in matching donors with recipient political parties.

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According to SBI, between April 1, 2019, and February 15 this year, donors purchased 22,217 electoral bonds of varying denominations, with 22,030 redeemed by political parties.

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