SC notice to Centre, EC on PIL against freebies by political parties during polls

January 25,2022 04:16 PM


New Delhi [India], January 25 (HornbillTV): SC notice to Centre, EC on PIL against freebies by political parties during polls.

New Delhi [India], January 25 (HornbillTV): The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Centre and Election Commission of India seeking direction to seize election symbols and deregister political parties that promised to distribute irrational freebies from public funds.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli agreed to hear the plea and observed that it's a serious issue that may influence the electorate and affect the fairness of polls.

"It's a serious issue no doubt. Freeble budget is going beyond regular budget. Even though it is not a corrupt practice but it creates a uneven level playing field," the Bench said while posting the matter for hearing after four weeks.

During the hearing, petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay's counsel Vikas Singh argued that the money of citizens of this country is at stake here.

"There are States which have a debt burden of 3 lakh per person and then freebies are being offered. Election Commission framed guidelines without any teeth. Every party is doing it, I don't want to name," senior advocate Singh said.

"If every party is doing this why you mentioned only two parties in your petition? Why have you been selective in your approach then?" the Bench asked.

When the Bench asked about who are made parties in the plea, Singh said the Centre and Election Commission have been made parties in the case and said he will add political parties as respondents in the case too.

The PIL filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay claimed political parties arbitrarily promises or irrational freebles 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 fundi before election to lure voters is analogous to the Bribery and Undue Influence under Section 171B and Section 171C of the IPC the plea stated.

It further sought direction to the ECI to insert an additional condition: "political party shall not promise/distribute irrational freebies from the public fund before election in paras 6A, 6B and 6C of the Election Symbols Order 1968.

It said that "rather than promising better rule of law, equal pay for equal work, clean water, equal quality education, quality healthcare, quality infrastructure, speedy justice, free legal aid, citizen charter, judicial charter, efficient police system, effective administrative system, political parties arbitrarily promised irrational freebies from public fund".

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 fashion for the political parties to announce free electricity in their election manifesto though 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 dampen 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.

SC    notice   to   Centre    EC    on    PIL   against    freebies    by   political    parties    during   polls