Following media reports that it was keeping a track of donations made via electoral bonds using an invisible serial number, the government on Tuesday said the number was not linked to any party transaction and cannot be used for tracking.
The Finance Ministry said the electoral bonds have some built-in security features to eliminate chances of forgery or presentation of fake bonds, which include a random serial number invisible to the naked eye.
"This number is not noted by the State Bank of India in any record associated with buyer or political party depositing a particular electoral bond. It is, thus, not linked to any party transaction when the bank issues a bond to the buyer.
"As such the number is not being used or can be used to track the donation or the buyer," an official statement said here.
The news website Quint had recently reported that electoral bonds have an invisible tracking number which is visible under ultra-violet light and had alleged that the government was using this number to track political donations made via those bonds.
The government said while the purchaser is allowed to buy electoral bonds only on due fulfilment of KYC norms and by making payments from a bank account, the bond does not carry the name of payee or any other details by which the buyer can be identified.
"Likewise, no detail of a political party depositing the bonds is noted on the electoral bonds. Thus, any particular bond cannot be identified or associated with any particular buyer or political party deposits it," it added.
It added: "SBI does not share the serial number with anybody, including the government and users."
Electoral bond are a form of money and are valid for 15 days. They expire if they are not donated to a party within that time.
However, in an authored article in The Quint, S.Y. Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner of India, said: "As I had pointed out earlier, one major problem with electoral bonds is that under the scheme, the name of the donor and the receiver is not revealed...
"I think the real reason could be that they don't want return favours (quid pro quo) bestowed by the governments in the form of contracts, licences, loans, etc., to become public. It's a clear case of private interest of donors in conflict with public interest in transparency. In such a scenario, electoral bonds will serve the opposite purpose of what they were introduced for in the first place. Instead of making electoral funding more transparent, the process will become way more opaque and information blacked out from the public," he added.
The only probable purpose of hidden serial numbers on electoral bonds could be to track donors, a former director of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Vipin Malik, told The Quint.
"If they wanted to keep it as a security number then they could have very well printed it to be visible."