'Freebies' a serious issue, SC sends notice to Centre, Election Commission
BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay filed a plea; saying the public funds are being misused by all the political parties and pushed the states into more debt.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Centre and the Election Commission (EC) about the policies on 'freebies' promised by political parties before elections. The Supreme Court has called it a serious issue and stressed that the 'freebie budget' goes beyond the regular budget.
The court has sought a response from the poll body and the union government in four weeks.
The Chief Justice of India said that the Supreme Court, in a different issue, had directed the poll body to frame guidelines on the matter, however, the poll body held one meeting, and its result is unknown.
Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said, within the limited scope, we directed the EC to frame guidelines. Later they conducted only one meeting. They sought views from the political parties; after that, I don't know what happened next.
CJI Ramana, Justice Hima Kohli, and Justice AS Bopanna heard the plea. BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay filed a petition, saying the public funds are being misused by all the political parties and pushed the states into more debt. Senior Advocate Vikas Singh represented the petitioner.
The petition aims for the EC to seize election symbols and deregister political parties that swore to distribute the irrational freebies from public funds. The plea read, the citizens' money is misused despite the Election Commission regulations.
The petition also claims that promising or distributing irrational freebies from public funds before elections may unduly influence voters. Upadhyay's petition stated, "It shakes the foundations of a free and fair election, disturbs the level playing field, and taints the purity of the election process."
The petition further added that the 'recent trend' of offering freebies with an eye toward elections is 'not only the greatest threat to the survival of democratic values but also injures the spirit of the Constitution.' The court stated that it has previously observed that there is no level playing field and that parties make more promises to win elections.
The petition named it an 'unethical practice', akin to bribing the electorate at the cost of the exchequer to be in power. The petition also added, 'it must be avoided to preserve the democratic principles and practices.'