Supreme Court Plea Seeks Ban On Freebies From Public Funds By Political Parties

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A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to seize the election symbol or de-register a political party that promises or distributes “irrational freebies” from public funds before elections.
It said there should be a total ban on such populist measures to gain undue political favours from the voters as they violate the Constitution and the ECI should take suitable deterrent measures.

The plea urged the court to declare that the promise of irrational freebies from public funds before elections unduly influences the voters, disturbs the level playing field and vitiates the purity of the poll process.

The petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has, as an alternative, sought a direction to the Centre to enact a law in this regard.

“Petitioner submits that recent trend of political parties to influence voters by offering freebies with an eye on elections is not only the greatest threat to the survival of democratic values but also injures the spirit of the Constitution,” said the plea filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey.

“This unethical practice is just like giving bribes to the electorate at the cost of the exchequer to stay in power and must be avoided to preserve democratic principles and practices,” it said.

The petition has also sought a direction to the ECI to insert an additional condition in the relevant paragraphs of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968, which deals with conditions for recognition as a state party, that a “political party shall not promise/distribute irrational freebies from the public fund before the election”.

The petitioner has urged the top court to declare that promise or distribution of private goods or services, which are not for public purposes, from public funds before the election violates several articles of the Constitution, including Article 14 (equality before law).

The plea has referred to the promises being made by certain political parties in the ongoing assembly poll process in some states.

The petitioner said that the fulcrum of democracy is the electoral process and the distribution of money and promise of freebies have reached alarming levels with elections being countermanded several times.

“Petitioner submits that arbitrary promises of irrational freebies violate the ECI’s mandate for free and fair elections and distributing private goods-services, which are not for public purposes, from public funds clearly violate Articles 14, 162, 266(3) and 282 of the Constitution,” it said.

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