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Promising freebies during elections is 'serious economic issue', says SC

ANI | Updated: Aug 03, 2022 16:31 IST


New Delhi [India], August 3 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that political parties promising to distribute freebies during election campaigns is a "serious economic issue" and said that there is a need for a body to examine the matter.
A bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli said there is a need of Niti Aayog, Finance Commission, ruling and opposition parties, Reserve Bank of India, and other stakeholders to make suggestions on how to control freebies by political parties.
"All stakeholders who want the freebies and who are opposing it, including RBI, Niti Aayog, and Opposition parties have to be involved in this process of making some constructive suggestion," the bench said.
It asked the Centre, Election Commission, senior advocate and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, and petitioners to submit their suggestions within 7 days on the composition of an expert body that will examine how to regulate freebies and submit a report.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the central government supported the petition against promises of freebies by political parties and said this way we are heading towards economic disaster.
"These populist promises have an adverse effect on voters. This is how we head towards economic disasters," Mehta said.
"Every political party benefits from the freebies and I do not want to name one," said the CJI.
CJI Ramana said, "Everybody feels the money paid as taxes is not paid for the purposes of development etc and thus everyone should use an independent forum and the court should not be that forum. Every political party benefits from the freebies I do not want to name one."
The apex court was hearing a plea seeking direction to seize election symbols and deregister political parties that promised to distribute irrational freebies from public funds.
Last week it asked the central government to take a stand on the need to control the issue of political parties promising to distribute irrational freebies from public funds during elections campaigns.
It had asked the Centre to consider whether the suggestions of the Finance Commission can be sought for a solution.
The CJI had also sought the opinion of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was present in court for some other matter, on freebies by political parties.
"It is a serious issue but difficult to control politically. The Finance Commission when it does allocation to various states, it can take into account the debt of the state and the quantum of freebies. The finance commission is the appropriate authority to deal with it. Maybe we can invite the Commission to look into this aspect. The Centre cannot be expected to issue directions," Sibal had said.
Election Commission of India (ECI) had told the apex court that it was held in previous judgments that a manifesto was part of the promises of a political party and suggested that the Central government could bring in a law to deal with the issue.
The top court had observed that promising freebies is a serious issue which may influence the electorate and affect the fairness of polls.
Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay filing the plea had claimed that political parties' arbitrary promises or irrational freebies for wrongful gain and to lure voters in their favour is analogous to bribery and undue influences.
It claimed that promise or distribution of irrational freebies from public funds before elections could unduly influence the voters, shake the roots of a free and fair election, and disturb the level playing field, besides vitiating the purity of the election process.
"Direct and declare that promise/distribution of irrational freebies from the public fund before an election to lure voters is analogous to the Bribery and Undue Influence under Section 171B and Section 171C of the IPC," the plea stated.
The petition stated that unfortunately, freebies are not connected with job creation, development, or agriculture and voters are lured to cast votes in their favour by magical promises.
It has become a fashion for the political parties to announce free electricity in their election manifesto though the state has not been able to provide electricity for more than 16 hours and a large population doesn't even have access to electricity which has been recognized as a fundamental right, the petition added.
"Political parties announce unemployment allowance in manifesto which makes youth lazy and dampens the working culture of the people. Rather than giving unemployment allowance, executive should provide quality education so that youth can create job opportunities on their own. In this process, honest taxpayers have been made a mute spectator. Petitioner submits that healthcare infrastructure is not good as it was seen during COVID times but political parties are ignorant of it," the plea further submitted. (ANI)

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