ECI must announce elections only after SBI provides details of corporate purchase of electoral bonds: Ex-Civil servants

In a strongly worded public appeal to the Election Commission of India (ECI), 80 former public servants have argued for a moral and legal compulsion for elections to be held only after SBI makes corporate purchase of electoral bonds public

In a public appeal to Rajiv Kumar, Chief Election Commissioner (ECI), former Indian Foreign Secretary (IFS) Shivshankar Menon, former Indian Home Secretary, GS Pillai, Tirlochan Shastri, former Chairperson, National Commission for Minorities (NCM), Julio Ribeiro, former advisor to the Government of Punjab, Wajahat Habibullah, former Chief Information Commissioner snd NC Saxena, former Secretary, Planning Commission.

The open letter points out that when the SBI could give Thomas Franco, former General Secretary, All India Banking Officers Confederation (on an RTI reply) details of bond purchases in just six days, (see letter below for details) the SBI affidavit before the Supreme Court of India (SC) asking for over 110 days to submit details as per the SC’s verdict on the issue was dishonest and defies requirements of transparency and accountability under a functioning democracy.

The entire communication may be read here:

hri Rajiv Kumar

Chief Election Commissioner

Shri Arun Goel

Election Commissioner

Dear Shri Rajiv Kumar and Shri Arun Goel,

We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have worked in the Central and State Governments during our careers. As a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India.

​We are writing to you with reference to the extraordinary request of the State Bank of India (SBI) to the Supreme Court of India (SCI) to extend the time to submit information regarding electoral bonds till June 30, 2024, by which time the elections to Parliament would be over. We note with dismay that it took SBI seventeen days to inform the Court on 4thMarch that they are not in a position to collate the data by 6thMarch. For India’s largest bank with 48 crore accounts and boasting high levels of digitization, a pathetic excuse has been proffered that records were kept manually and hence the extension sought. Thomas Franco, former General Secretary of the All India Banking Officers Confederation, has pointed out that SBI had asked the Government of India by a letter of June 2018 for a sum of more than Rs 60 lakhs for development of IT systems for the electoral bond scheme. In the same piece, Franco has also published an RTI reply that gives, in just a period of six days, details of bonds sold over six years. Subhash Chandra Garg, Finance Secretary at the time of finalization of the scheme (and a defender of it), has said in interviews that it should not take more than tenminutes to get the information sought. He also makes the important point that the SCI has not asked for details linking the purchase of bonds with the political parties to whom they have been given; so, the demand for time is wholly unjustified.

​While striking down the scheme of electoral bonds as unconstitutional, the SCI had flagged both the right to information of the citizens of India to know about funding of political parties and how there would be no level playing field if one party got undue financial advantage. The SBI’s denying this information and indicating that it would not be available before the general elections seems to indicate that the SBI is shielding the Government in power from any criticism that there was a quid pro quo between the bonds and favours given to some firms or raids/intimidation to pressurize the corporates to fall in line. The media portals Newslaundry and News Minute have already published material linking thirtycorporates and their purchase of bonds worth about Rs 335 crore in the previous five years to the blatant misuse of enforcement agencies to make these corporates fall in line.

​We would like to reference the letter of March 6, 2024, written by EAS Sarma, a former Secretary to the Government of India, in which he has requested the ECI not only to freeze any unspent funds of political parties from the scheme but also not to publish the schedule of elections till the SBI gives the information ordered by the SCI. We note that the term of the present Lok Sabha is up to June 16, 2024, and to complete the election in time, the ECI could announce the schedule by March 27, or even earlier. The SBI should give the electoral bonds data much before the announcement of the elections.This is an opportunity for the ECI to reclaim its reputation and its integrity by using its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution. As Shri Sarma has suggested, it should direct the SBI to immediately release the information. The ECI should also make it clear that it will not announce the schedule for the 2024 general elections till the SBI furnishes this information. If the ECI remains quiescent, it will not live up to its Constitutional mandate of respecting the right to information of Indian voters and of holding free and fair elections on a level playing field. That would be a death blow for democracy in India as we know it.


Yours faithfully,

Constitutional Conduct Group (79 signatories, as below)

1.Anita AgnihotriIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI
2.G. BalachandhranIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
3.Gopalan BalagopalIAS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
4.Chandrashekar BalakrishnanIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
5.Rana BanerjiRAS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
6.Sharad BeharIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
7.Aurobindo BeheraIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
8.Madhu BhaduriIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Portugal
9.Nutan Guha BiswasIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Police Complaints Authority, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
10.Meeran C BorwankarIPS (Retd.)Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
11.Ravi BudhirajaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
12.Sundar BurraIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
13.Maneshwar Singh ChahalIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Secretary, Home, Govt. of Punjab
14.R. ChandramohanIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
15.Ranjan ChatterjeeIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Meghalaya & former Expert Member, National Green Tribunal
16.Kalyani ChaudhuriIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
17.Gurjit Singh CheemaIAS (Retd.)


Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab
18.F.T.R. ColasoIPS (Retd.)Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
19.Anna DaniIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
20.P.R. DasguptaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
21.Pradeep K. DebIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
22.Nitin Desai Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
23.Sushil DubeyIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Sweden
24.K.P. FabianIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Italy
25.Suresh K. GoelIFS (Retd.)Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
26.S.K. GuhaIAS (Retd.)Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI
27.H.S. GujralIFoS (Retd.)Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
28.Meena GuptaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
29.Ravi Vira GuptaIAS (Retd.)Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
30.Wajahat HabibullahIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner
31.Naini JeyaseelanIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
32.Najeeb JungIAS (Retd.)Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
33.Sanjay KaulIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
34.Vinod C. KhannaIFS (Retd.)Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI
35.Gita KripalaniIRS (Retd.)Former Member, Settlement Commission, GoI
36.Ish KumarIPS (Retd.)Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission
37.Harsh ManderIAS (Retd.)Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
38.Aditi MehtaIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
39.Shivshankar MenonIFS (Retd.)Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser
40.Sonalini MirchandaniIFS (Resigned)GoI
41.Malay MishraIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Hungary
42.Satya Narayan MohantyIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
43.Deb MukharjiIFS (Retd.)Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
44.Shiv Shankar MukherjeeIFS (Retd.)Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
45.Gautam MukhopadhayaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Myanmar
46.P. Joy OommenIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
47.Amitabha PandeIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
48.Maxwell PereiraIPS (Retd.)Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
49.G.K. PillaiIAS (Retd.)Former Home Secretary, GoI
50.Rajesh PrasadIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
51.N.K. RaghupathyIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
52.V.P. RajaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
53.V. Ramani


IAS (Retd.)Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra
54.M. RameshkumarIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal
55.K. Sujatha RaoIAS (Retd.)Former Health Secretary, GoI
56.Satwant ReddyIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
57.Vijaya Latha ReddyIFS (Retd.)Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
58.Julio RibeiroIPS (Retd.)Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
59.Aruna RoyIAS (Resigned) 
60.Manabendra N. RoyIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
61.Deepak SananIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
62.S. SatyabhamaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
63.N.C. SaxenaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
64.A. SelvarajIRS (Retd.)Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
65.Abhijit SenguptaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
66.Aftab SethIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Japan
67.Ashok Kumar SharmaIFoS (Retd.)Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
68.Ashok Kumar SharmaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
69.Navrekha SharmaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Indonesia
70.Raju SharmaIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
71.Avay ShuklaIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary (Forests & Technical Education), Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
72.K.S. SidhuIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
73.Tara Ajai SinghIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
74.Tirlochan SinghIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
75.Prakriti SrivastavaIFoS (Retd.)Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & Special Officer, Rebuild Kerala Development Programme, Govt. of Kerala
76.Anup ThakurIAS (Retd.)Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
77.P.S.S. ThomasIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
78.Ashok VajpeyiIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi
79.Rudi WarjriIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica




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