The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Centre on the issue of political parties wooing voters with the promise of freebies ahead of the upcoming assembly elections in five states this year. The Supreme Court said the promise of freebies was a ‘serious issue’.
What is the notice about?
The SC has directed the ECI to frame guidelines to stop the political parties from distributing “irrational freebies from public fund”. According to the Supreme Court, the states are already under huge debt. The freebies being announced will increase the stress on the people. Ultimately, the money comes from people tax.
The Supreme court has also asked the central government to frame a separate law to govern the freebies being offered during election campaigns.
Legality in the issue
According to Indian law, the election manifesto cannot be treated as a corrupt practice. Section 123 of Representation of People Act lists the corrupt practices. And election manifesto is not a corrupt practice according to the act. Currently, there is no Indian law to govern the freebies being announced by the state governments.
In 2013, in the case of Subramanium Balaji Vs Tamil government, the court pronounced that the freebies impact the voting choices of people largely. The court ruled that the fact that the freebies announced during election campaigns influences people voting largely cannot be ruled out.
The freebies are being announced based on the government funds. And the political parties cannot make such promises before learning about the financial condition of the government. Some parties even announce schemes under which free cash is to be delivered before coming to power.
ECI’s stand According to ECI, the commission has already incorporated the guidelines governing election manifesto in part VII of the Model Code of Conduct. Also, the commission has issued instructions about implementing the ongoing government schemes while the code of conduct is in operation