Freebies offered by political parties have adverse effect on economy, can prove disastrous, Centre tells Supreme Court

In his plea, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a BJP spokesperson had argued that arbitrary promises of freebies violate the ECI’s mandate of conducting free and fair elections.

Freebies offered by political parties have adverse effect on economy, can prove disastrous, Centre tells Supreme Court

Populist promises announced by political parties have an adverse impact on voters and have the potential to cause economic disasters, the central government stated before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. “Populist promises have an adverse effect on voters. This is how we head toward economic disasters. The Election Commission of India should apply its mind and we can submit suggestions,” Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta said,  representing the Centre in the apex court. 

The submissions were made during a hearing on a plea filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking de-registration of political parties which induce voters through freebies during elections.

Also Read: Supreme Court asks Centre on ways to control ‘freebies’ to influence voters

The Solicitor General, while backing the petitioner’s argument, suggested to the top court’s bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana that the ECI should take a look at it. The CJI, while concurring with the SG’s submission that political parties offering freebies is a serious issue, said that the views of stakeholders including the Opposition, Reserve Bank of India, Niti Aayog, Finance Commission, Law Commission and Election Commission of India will have to be taken into account before the court arrives at a decision. 

Accordingly, the court then asked the Centre, Election Commission, senior advocate and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, and petitioners to submit their suggestions on the matter within seven days on the composition of an expert body that will examine how to regulate freebies and submit a report to it.   

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In his plea, Upadhyay, also a BJP spokesperson had argued that arbitrary promises of freebies violate the ECI’s mandate of conducting free and fair elections. Taking the recently held Punjab elections as an example, the plea cited the Aam Aadmi Party’s promise of providing Rs 1,000 per month to every woman aged 18; Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD) promise of Rs. 2000 to each woman; Congress’s promise of Rs. 2000 per month, 8 gas cylinders per year to every housewife, a Scooty to every collage going girl, Rs. 20,000 after passing Class 12, Rs. 15,000 after passing Class 10, Rs. 10,000 after passing Class 8 and Rs. 5000 after passing Class 5.

Similarly, the plea cites the Congress’ promise of a smartphone to every girl studying in Class 12, a Scooty for every girl pursuing graduation, free public transport for women, eight free gas cylinders per year to every housewife and free medical treatment up to Rs 10 lakh per family ahead of the UP Assembly elections.

In his plea, Upadhyay has sought “directions to declare that promise/distribution of irrational freebies from the public fund before elections to lure voters” is violative of the Constitution. He has also prayed for directions to EC to insert an additional condition in the Election Symbols Order 1968 mandating that “political party shall not promise/distribute irrational freebies from the public fund before election”.

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