Interview: Jagdeep Chhokar brings his fight against electoral bonds to an end

This article is an interview of Prof Chhokar, Founder Member and Trustee of ADR, with Indian News Weekly.


At the last moment of elections, the Supreme Court has created an uproar among political parties by declaring the ‘Electoral Bond Scheme’ unconstitutional. For the ruling party, this was such a system of getting access from the thieves’ door on which no one even raised a finger and overall it was their sole rule. This plan had no effect on the opposition parties. All the electoral bonds purchased by the donors in the last 5 years were in the name of the ruling party. Who gave how much money? Who is the giver, where is he from, what does he do? Doesn’t anyone know anything? Also kept away from right to information. But now the court has used such a power on this system that political parties are not allowed to say anything. This light has been awakened by Prof. Jagdeep S. Chhokar who is the founder of the world famous ‘ADR’ institute. A detailed conversation was held with him by journalist Dr. Ramesh Thakur. Read some selected excerpts from the conversation in this interview.

Question- The Supreme Court has finally declared electoral bonds unconstitutional, how do you view this decision?

Answer: There are still many complications. I would call the decision ‘better late than never’. Because the decision was reserved in the court for a few months. Which should have been told long ago. The judgment was written in two parts. The first judgment was written by four judges and the second judgment was written by another judge. However, the language of both is the same. Now the ball is in the court of the Election Commission. The court has given him three weeks time in which he has to make public the entire donation amount and complete information about the donors. Almost a week has passed. The rough figure is Rs 16000 crore. Let’s see, how much money does the Election Commission reveal and whether it reveals everyone’s name or not?

Question: What were the shortcomings of electoral bonds?

Answer: The flaws were few or many. Firstly, so that neither the source of the money could be known nor the identity of the donor? In a democratic system it is called taking bribe from behind. There was one more problem, the biggest one. All the electoral bonds belonged to the ruling party. The rest of the opposition parties remained silent. If we see from 2017, almost one third i.e. 75 percent of the amount of electoral bonds went to the account of the ruling party. Rest of the parties had to be satisfied with only 25 percent. It had become public knowledge that this system openly benefited the ruling party. Not even an iota of information regarding money and its owner was allowed to reach the public domain.

Question: If this system is stopped, don’t you think that the election funding scam will return to the old times?

Answer: Certainly such suspicions cannot be ruled out. Political parties cannot run without donations. They must need money in elections. Even if they get that money in the form of black money, or even if it is given by a screened criminal. We all see how expensive elections have become today. People spend several lakhs of rupees even in the election of village head. Parties spend money like water in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Crores and billions of rupees are seized by the Election Commission in every election. That money is simply black money. This will happen in future also. If it doesn’t happen then political parties will find a different way to do it. Then, our fight will pursue those methods also. How to survive without donations, we will find some new way.

Question: What kind of arrangements should be made to stop the business of election donations?

Answer- Very difficult, but also easy? There should be fixed limits on how candidates spend money in elections. If a candidate contests elections with limited funds, the systems will automatically improve. But, it is also a fact that till now a candidate spends as much money as he has on hiring a helicopter in a rally. Doesn’t the Election Commission see all this? See, the purpose of any system or rule is that there should be no interference of corruption and money and force in the democratic process of our country and there should be clean elections. This requires strict laws and the Election Commission will have to take progressive steps. Paper and cosmetic actions will not help. Many things will become clear in the direction given by the court to the seller of electoral bonds, ‘State Bank of India’, to share all the information with the Election Commission within 3 weeks.

Question: Electoral bonds were also kept away from the Right to Information?

Answer: I said, this system is like open robbery. This system was born by amending many laws. That’s why the Supreme Court considered it unconstitutional. This is a direct violation of the right to information. The Supreme Court has also asked the Central Government to give the accounts of donations received in the last 5 years. See, there will be reluctance here too. Opposition parties will also shy away from giving details. In other words, an electoral bond is an instrument in the nature of a promissory note or bearer bond, which can be purchased by any person or company, provided that person or body is a citizen of India or is incorporated in India. But everyone was left breathless when the flaws and cover-ups made public were made public.

Question: What is the caveat in making public the names of donors?

Answer- Why is there no abstinence? Why would anyone give money as charity to anyone? He will spend his money only to take advantage of the other person. There is a secret agreement between the giver and the taker. When a wealthy person gives a huge amount to a party, he later gets a tender or some big work done. Some even get changes made in the law. Political parties receive anonymous donations mostly from big industrialists and industrial houses. After donating, they pursue their own interests. After receiving donations, governments also have to make all the policies as per their wish. That is why they exploit water extensively and do not even desist from cutting forests. The public screams and cries after seeing his actions. But they don’t know that both of them are complicit in it.


The article was originally published in Indian News Weekly.