scorecardresearch

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

The bench then promptly turned to ASG Nataraj and asked him to explore this issue and get guidelines from the government and posted the matter for next hearing on August 3.

supreme court on disability pension
The bench said: "We direct the Government of India to get instructions in this matter…"(File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to ascertain from the Finance Commission if there is any way to stop state government and political parties from promising and distributing “irrational freebies” to manipulate voters.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana flagged the issue as a “serious” matter and sought means to curb the promise of freebies to influence voters. Having failed to receive an adequate response from the Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj on the centre’s position, the CJI asked the Centre to take take a stand on whether freebies should continue or not.

During the hearing, CJI Ramana asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was present in the courtroom for some other matter, for his views on a PIL questioning freebies announced during polls by political parties. The Chief Justice said: “Mr Sibal is here as a senior parliamentarian. What is your view?”

Sibal replied that freebies are a serious matter but difficult to control politically and the Finance Commission while making allocations to various states, should take this into account — a debt of states and then freebies.

“Centre cannot be expected to issue directions,” Sibal said, adding that the Finance Commission is the appropriate authority to examine this issue. The bench said: “We direct the Government of India to get instructions in this matter…”

The bench then promptly turned to ASG Nataraj and asked him to explore this issue and get guidelines from the government and posted the matter for next hearing on August 3.

Earlier in April this year, the ECI told the Supreme Court that offering freebies either before or after the elections is a policy decision of the political party, and it cannot regulate state policies and decisions taken by the parties. In an affidavit, the ECI said: “Offering/distribution of any freebies either before or after the election is a policy decision of the party concerned and whether such policies are financially viable or its adverse effect on the economic health of the state is a question that has to be considered and decided by the voters of the state.”

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.