The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a plea by the State Bank of India (SBI) and asked it to submit details of the Electoral Bonds by the close of business on Tuesday, March 12. The Court said the Election Commission will then have to publish the information on its website by March 15.

Earlier, the deadline was March 6, but the bank pleaded in the Court to give time till June 30, citing operational difficulties. A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra were hearing SBI’s application for an extension deadline. This plea was clubbed with contempt petitions filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Common Cause, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) against the public sector bank over its non-disclosure of vital details related to electoral bonds despite the Supreme Court’s directives to that effect.

Read: Contempt plea filed against SBI in Supreme Court for not following direction on electoral bond issue

Last week, SBI, in an application, said that details of purchases made at the branches are not maintained centrally in any one place. The data related to the issuance of the bond and the data related to the redemption of the bond were kept recorded in two different silos. “No central database was maintained. This was done so as to ensure that donors’ anonymity would be protected,” the bank said.

Donor details were stored in sealed covers at designated branches and transferred to the main Mumbai branch. Each political party had to maintain a designated account at one of 29 authorised branches for depositing and redeeming electoral bonds. Upon redemption, the original bond and pay-in slip were sealed and sent to the SBI Mumbai main branch.

Read: Annulling of electoral bonds will lead to greater transparency: Amartya Sen

SBI mentioned that the two sets of information were stored separately, making reconciling them labour-intensive. To disclose donor details, the date of bond issuance must be cross-referenced with individual purchases. This process addresses the first set of data. The bank explained that political parties redeemed these bonds in designated bank accounts, which must then be matched with redemption data, forming the second set of information.

The bank mentioned that between April 12, 2019, and February 15, 2024 (date of judgment), 22,217 electoral bonds were used to donate to various political parties. Redeemed bonds were deposited in the Mumbai main branch by the authorised branches at the end of each phase in sealed envelopes. “Coupled with the fact that two different information silos existed, this would mean that a total of 44,434 information sets would have to be decoded, compiled and compared,” the lender said. The bank admitted that the timeline of three weeks fixed by the Court in its judgment would not be sufficient for the entire exercise to be completed.