Indian Express Editorial Analysis- 16 February 2024

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Indian Express Editorial Analysis- 16 February 2024

1. America’s defender angel

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Important aspects of governance: Transparency and accountability GS2 – Polity – Judiciary 
In light of the facts regarding election funding, accountability in government, and transparency, this topic is pertinent for both the preliminary and main exams.

– The Supreme Court of India rendered a landmark decision on February 15, 2024, which will go down in history as a turning point in the country’s democratic history.
– A five-member Constitution Bench decided on the contentious Electoral Bonds Scheme and ruled it unconstitutional.
– This analysis will examine the main points of the ruling and how it affects the electoral process in India, with an emphasis on the shortcomings of the plan, the issues brought up by independent institutions, and possible reform options.

Wholehearted Opposition to Electoral Bonds Plan:

  • The Supreme Court’s ruling, which overturned every objection to the Election Bonds Scheme, is a clear endorsement of democratic values.
  • The Court held that the plan violated the right to information, highlighting the fact that the Constitution does not ignore possible abuse in the name of reducing the amount of black money.
  • The Court has strengthened accountability and transparency in the electoral process by directing the immediate stop of bond issuance and the submission of all relevant data to the Election Commission of India (ECI).

Fascinating History and Legislative Changes:

  • Irony and contradiction characterize the Electoral Bonds Scheme’s history, which was first presented in the 2017 Union budget by the late finance minister Arun Jaitley.
  • Though the plan at first emphasized how important it is that political funding be transparent, in the end, it promoted opacity and secrecy.
  • Legislative changes that shield donations from the ECI’s investigation sparked worries about the scheme’s capacity to encourage crony capitalism and enable illicit money transfers.
  • Additionally, the changes made to a number of laws made electoral bonds possible, demonstrating a deliberate attempt to change current laws in favor of transparent political funding.

Concerns about foreign funding and overlooked changes:

  • Significant changes were passed with insufficient scrutiny, like the removal of the corporate donation cap and the acceptance of foreign contributions by political parties.
  • The seriousness of the situation is highlighted by the retroactive amendment designed to protect foreign financing of elections from scrutiny.
  • The Election Commission and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), two independent organizations, had voiced doubts about the plan due to worries that it would undermine the fundamentals of central banking and enable money laundering.
  • The government disregarded basic principles of transparency and continued to pursue opaque political funding in spite of these warnings.

Options for Reforming Electoral Finance:

  • Examining other options to purge electoral funding in India is imperative given the ruling of the Supreme Court.
  • Alternatives like creating a National Election Fund or doing away with private funding in favor of public funding should be taken into account.
  • By using these substitutes, donor retaliation worries might be reduced and increased political funding transparency could be guaranteed.
  • Nonetheless, the Court’s recognition of possible political party financial abuse emphasizes the necessity of strong oversight procedures to prevent illegal activity.


  • An important turning point in India’s electoral democracy has been reached by the Supreme Court’s historic ruling, which signifies a renewed dedication to accountability and openness.
  • By overturning the Electoral Bonds Scheme and related laws, the Court has once again demonstrated its role as the protector of democracy.
  • Going forward, determined efforts are needed to implement significant reforms that put the integrity of the electoral process first and preserve democratic values.

What are Electoral Bonds?
– Electoral bonds, a means of making anonymous contributions to political parties, were first announced on January 29, 2018, as part of the Finance Bill 2017.
– Under the scheme, any person or organization can buy electoral bonds from SBI in denominations of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore, which they can then donate to any political party that is officially registered.
– The bonds have a 15-day validity period from the date of issuance, and the donor’s name is kept private.
– To be eligible to receive the electoral bonds, political parties must set up a specific account that is checked by the ECI.
– Electoral bonds can only be obtained by parties that received a minimum of 1% of the total votes cast in the previous general election for the State’s Legislative Assembly or House of People.

PYQ: In 2016, the Election Commission of India proposed electoral reforms aimed at improving the quality of democracy in the country. What changes are recommended, and how important are they to ensuring the success of democracy? (15 minutes, 250 words) (CSE (M) GS-2, UPSSC 2017)
Practice Question: In the context of Indian democracy, what does the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Electoral Bonds Scheme is unconstitutional mean? (10 m / 150 words)

2. Bringing back RTI

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Important aspects of governance: Transparency and accountability
GS2 – Polity – Judiciary
In light of the Supreme Court of India’s landmark ruling that highlights the interaction between legislative acts like the Right to Information Act and constitutional guarantees like Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression), this topic is pertinent for both the Prelims and Mains exams.

– India’s democratic framework is significantly affected by the recent ruling by the Supreme Court (SC) that the Electoral Bonds (EB) scheme is unconstitutional, especially with regard to accountability and transparency.
– This historic ruling revives debates about the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) and its protection of democratic values in addition to addressing the legality of the EB scheme.

Information Rights Are Reaffirmed:

  • Against the Solicitor General’s (SG) arguments about informational privacy, the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision in support of the RTI Act under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution heralds a return of the citizens’ right to access information.
  • The Court emphasizes the critical role that transparency plays in maintaining democratic processes by stating that it is imperative to reveal the identities of donors and recipients.

Challenges the RTI Act Faces:

  • The RTI Act continues to face significant obstacles in spite of the Supreme Court’s unwavering position on the matter.
  • A number of setbacks for the Act were observed in 2023, including administrative errors, growing appeals pending, and vacancies in Information Commissions.
  • These problems highlight the urgent need for extensive reforms to address systemic flaws and reinstate the Act’s effectiveness.

The RTI Regime’s Historical Context and Evolution:

  • Examining the beginnings and development of the RTI Act offers important insights into its transformative capacity and ongoing significance.
  • The Act is now a pillar of democratic governance in India, having grown out of grassroots movements like the “Hamara Paisa, Hamara Hisab” campaign, which was spearheaded by the Mazdoor Kisan Sangathan Samiti (MKSS) in rural Rajasthan.

The way forward is to increase accountability and transparency.:

  • The ruling of the SC acts as a spur for improving accountability and transparency in government as well as reviving the RTI regime.
  • Reform opportunities abound in the proposals to form a committee under the Ministry of Personnel to handle systemic issues and encourage stakeholder participation.
  • In order to maintain its standing in the international arena, India must adopt the values of accountability and transparency found in the RTI Act.


  • The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on the Electoral Bonds program emphasizes the fundamental connection between accountability, transparency, and democratic governance.
  • The Court’s affirmation of citizens’ right to information has sparked new debates about the role that the RTI Act plays in preserving democratic ideals.
  • India must prioritize the revival of the RTI regime in order to uphold inclusive governance for all citizens and solidify its commitment to democratic values as it travels towards economic prosperity and global leadership.

About Right to Information Act, 2005
– The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution is the source of the right to information.
– We are unable to voice an informed opinion about the operation of our government and public institutions if we lack knowledge about them.
– The main goals of the Right to Information Act are to increase citizen power and encourage accountability and transparency in government operations.
– A format for requesting information is defined by the Act and its regulations.
– an interval of time during which data must be supplied,
– a means of providing the data,
– fees associated with applying and
– exclusions of information that won’t be provided.
– Important clauses in the RTI Act are as follows:
– Public authorities are required by Section 4 of the Act to keep their records properly catalogued and indexed in a way that makes it easier for people to exercise their right to access information.
– According to Section 6 of the Act, anyone wishing to obtain any information under the Act may do so by writing to the Central or State Public Information Officer and outlining the specific information they are looking for.
– Within 30 days of receiving the request, the Public Information Officer is required by Section 7 of the Act to either provide the information or deny it for any of the reasons listed in Sections 8 and 9.
According to Section 19, an individual may choose to appeal to an officer in that Public Authority who is senior in rank to the Public Information Officer if he is dissatisfied with the Public Information Officer’s decision or if he does not receive a decision within 30 days.
– Exemptions under the Act: personal information, national security, or defense-related information are not permitted.
– The Official Secrets Act and a few other unique laws limited information disclosure in India prior to the passage of the RTI Act. Numerous such laws in the nation were loosened by the RTI Act.

PYQ: The Information Commission’s independence and autonomy will be significantly impacted by recent changes to the Right to Information Act. Talk about it. (150 words, 10 seconds) (UPSC GS-2 2020 CSE (M))
Practice Question: Examine critically the effects of the recent ruling by the Supreme Court that the Electoral Bonds program is unconstitutional on the Right to Information Act, as well as the wider implications for accountability and transparency in Indian democracy. (15 m/250 words)

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