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Fact check: SBI already served electoral bond data to the Modi Govt?

The State Bank of India (SBI) is facing scrutiny over its request to the Supreme Court for additional time to disclose electoral bond details.

By Ground report
New Update
Fact check: SBI already served electoral bond data to the Modi Govt?

The State Bank of India (SBI) is facing scrutiny over its request to the Supreme Court for additional time to disclose electoral bond details. The bank has asked for an extension until June 30, citing the task’s complexity. This request comes after the Supreme Court’s directive to publicise such information, which has led to controversy given the SBI’s past efficiency in quickly providing similar data to the government.

SBI sent bond data quickly to govt

According to a report published by The Reporters Collective, Documents revealed that the SBI had previously managed to gather and send electoral bond data to the Union Finance Ministry within just 48 hours after the sale period. This contrasts with the current situation where the SBI claims it needs more time to match the bonds with the political parties that received them.

The SBI maintains an audit trail for the bonds, each marked with a serial number, to track their sale and redemption. However, the bank now says that the data is stored in separate ‘silos,’ making the process of matching donors with recipients time-consuming.

Internal communications from the Union Finance Ministry in 2017 indicate that the SBI could connect donors with recipient parties in real-time during bond encashment, thanks to a detailed Know Your Customer (KYC) process and hidden bond serial numbers. The government has defended the electoral bond scheme as transparent, with records available for enforcement agencies when needed.

The law stated that an electoral bond only had a shelf life of 15 days, so the SBI corporate office contacted the finance ministry for advice. The ministry advised quickly, telling the bank to let the political party encash the expired bonds. Moved with lightning speed, the corporate office instructed the Delhi office to do so. All of these actions took place within 24 hours, which led to the political party encashing the expired electoral bonds.

The bank maintains separate records for bond sales and redemptions to ensure donor anonymity, which it claims necessitates months to reconcile. However, this stands in contrast to 2017 documents indicating the SBI’s ability to promptly link donors with political parties at the time of bond encashment. This discrepancy has raised questions about the bank’s current delay in providing the requested data.

SBI electoral bond disclosure dispute

The State Bank of India’s request for an extension to disclose electoral bond details has sparked a political row. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has accused the Modi government of using the bank to conceal “dubious dealings” through the bonds. He criticized the electoral bonds scheme as non-transparent and undemocratic, alleging that the BJP, which he claims is the main beneficiary, is delaying the disclosure until after the Lok Sabha elections.

Kharge questioned the need for a four-month delay when experts suggest the data could be processed in a day. He accused the government of overpowering institutions to benefit the BJP financially. Congress MP Manish Tewari echoed these sentiments, urging the Supreme Court to demand transparency before the elections.

Rahul Gandhi also weighed in, questioning why the SBI would not release the information promptly when the Supreme Court has highlighted the public’s right to know.

"When the Supreme Court has stated that it is the right of the people of the country to know the truth about electoral bonds, then why does the SBI not want this information to be made public before the elections?" he added.

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