National News News Report

SBI Again Refuses To Disclose Electoral Bond SOPs

The State Bank of India (SBI) has once again declined to disclose the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the sale and redemption of electoral bonds, as requested under the Right to Information Act (RTI). According to a report by The Times of India (ToI), SBI cited reasons for “commercial confidence” and claimed that the SOPs are the “intellectual property of the bank,” exclusively meant for internal use by its dealing staff.

Advocate Anjali Bhardwaj filed the appeal, seeking access to the SOPs dating back to April 2017, but SBI initially rejected it on March 30. Following this, Bhardwaj escalated the matter by appealing to SBI’s first appellate authority (FAA) but remained dissatisfied with the response received on May 17.

Now, Bhardwaj plans to challenge the denial before the Central Information Commission (CIC). This move comes amid ongoing controversy and debate over transparency and accountability in the electoral bond scheme, which allows for anonymous donations to political parties.

As per Business standard reports, in the order dated May 17, the FAA stated, “The information sought is held by the bank in its commercial confidence and hence cannot be provided. Further, the internal guidelines are strictly meant for the dealing staff, and the information is also the bank’s intellectual property, hence rightly denied under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act.”

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Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act states, “Information, including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.”

Anjali Bhardwaj, an advocate for transparency, has expressed concerns over the State Bank of India’s (SBI) refusal to disclose standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to electoral bonds. According to The Times of India (ToI), Bhardwaj emphasized that her request for the SOPs was driven by worries about the ambiguity in how SBI manages transaction data for electoral bonds. She pointed out that SBI records unique numbers for both purchasers and redeemers, raising concerns about the potential tracking of bonds.

Bhardwaj informed ToI that despite the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the electoral bond scheme as unconstitutional and order disclosure of all details, SBI continues to withhold crucial information.
She criticized SBI’s first appellate authority (FAA) for not demonstrating how the disclosure of SOPs would harm a third party’s competitive position and for failing to disclose who this third party might be. Bhardwaj also noted that the FAA did not adequately weigh the public interest in the matter and simply cited internal guidelines as justification for denial despite there being no such exemption clause in the RTI Act.


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