The Delhi High Court has issued a notice to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and also to the centre on the plea to restrain all political parties from offering freebies to the voters in the wake of the upcoming assembly elections 2017. In the next two months assembly election will be conducted in five states- Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Punjab , Manipur and Goa. The bench has scheduled the next hearing on May 24. The court has issued a notice to the government and ECI to file their response within eight weeks.
A bench consisting of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal asked the ECI to explain if its guidelines on election manifesto are in conformity with the Supreme Court’s direction that were given earlier. The bench said, “You (ECI) will have to file your response and inform this court whether the guidelines issued by you are in conformity with the directions given by the Supreme Court.”
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The HC was hearing a plea by Delhi resident Ashok Sharma who has sought direction to the ECI to restrain all political parties from distributing free goods (freebies) as are being allegedly offered in the upcoming state that are scheduled to be held in the month of February and March.
In its July 2013 verdict the apex court had observed that, “although the law is obvious that promises made in an election manifesto cannot be construed as a ‘corrupt practice’ under section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, the reality is that distribution of freebies of any kind undoubtedly influences all people and it affects level-playing field.”
(With inputs from PTI)