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Supreme Court Warns SBI of Contempt Proceedings Over Electoral Bonds Data Delay

Supreme Court Warns SBI of Contempt Proceedings Over Electoral Bonds Data Delay

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court of India issued a stern warning to the State Bank of India (SBI) on Monday, accusing the country’s largest bank of “wilful disobedience” for not complying with last month’s order to release data about donors and recipients of electoral bonds by March 6.

A bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud cautioned SBI of potential contempt proceedings if the bank failed to release the data by the close of business on Tuesday. The court also directed the Chairman and Managing Director of SBI to file an affidavit after complying with the order.

“While we are not inclined to exercise contempt jurisdiction at this time, we place SBI on notice that this court may be inclined to proceed against it for wilful disobedience if it does not comply with directions by timelines indicated in this order,” stated the Chief Justice.

SBI, holding a substantial 23 per cent market share, had sought an extension until June 30, citing the need for time to collect, cross-check, and release data stored in two confidentiality-preserving “silos.” However, the court pointed out that donor details were readily available at the SBI’s Mumbai branch and criticized the bank for not taking sufficient action in the 26 days since the original order.

The Election Commission of India was also directed to collect and publish all electoral bonds data on its website by 5 pm on Friday.

The Supreme Court’s decision came in response to a plea by the SBI, seeking an extension of the March 6 deadline. The bank’s request was met with criticism from the Association for Democratic Reform (ADR), one of the original challengers to the electoral bonds scheme launched by the government in 2017. The ADR sought contempt action against SBI, accusing the bank of deliberately disobeying the court’s order and attempting to obscure donor details before the upcoming Lok Sabha election in April/May.

Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal condemned SBI’s request for an extension as “puerile” and called on the court to protect its dignity, particularly after a Constitution bench verdict last month declaring the electoral bond scheme “unconstitutional” and a violation of citizens’ right to information.

The Supreme Court had directed SBI to reveal all bonds data by March 6, with the poll panel instructed to make this information available to the public by March 13.

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