ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Supreme Court on Rafale Papers and Electoral Bonds

One and a Half Cheers for Transparency

The Supreme Court’s judgments in the Rafale Papers and the Electoral Bonds cases suggest that it is alive to the need for upholding transparency when it comes to the freedoms of the press and the funding of political parties. This is, however, not a consistent position and, in the Electoral Bonds case, the Supreme Court has hedged its bets to some extent. It remains to be seen, however, if the Court will extend this demand for transparency to its own functioning.

Two key judgments were delivered by the Supreme Court in the span of one week that will have a profound effect on the fight for transparency in public institutions. In Yashwant Sinha v Central Bureau of Investigation (2019; the “Rafale Papers case”), the Supreme Court held that the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (OSA) will not prevent a court from examining official documents that had been made public by a newspaper and—unless a category of information was expressly excluded from disclosure under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI)—these ought to be looked into by the court.

A couple of days later, in Association for Democratic Reforms v Union of India (2019; the “Electoral Bonds case”), the Supreme Court passed an interim order directing that political parties were required to provide the Election Commission of India (ECI) all the details of funding received by them through the “electoral bonds” scheme. Though it fell short of the demand of the petitioners to halt the scheme for the duration of the elections, it has made what was a voluntary obligation for parties, mandatory.

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Updated On : 20th Apr, 2019
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