The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that there needs to be a commission to look into the issue of political parties promising to give away freebies during election campaigns. Supreme Court termed it a “serious economic issue.”
The Centre claimed that these giveaways were opening the door to an “economic calamity” and “distorting the informed judgement of voters” at the same time that a Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana made these statements. The Centre, as argued by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, stated that it “essentially and in principle” supported ending the practice of giving freebies to voters.
Mr Mehta said the court should allow the Election Commission of India (ECI) to “apply its mind” to the problem.
However, prominent attorney Kapil Sibal argued that the ECI should be “kept aside” from the free-gift debate. Mr Sibal stated that ECI is an MFI (most favourite institution). He claimed that the issue went beyond elections and was both political and economic in character.
Mr Sibal remarked, “The Parliament will have to debate.”
“Mr Sibal, do you think there will be a debate in the Parliament? These days everyone wants freebies. Not a single political party will allow freebies to be taken away… We take the side of the ordinary people, the downtrodden. Their welfare has to be taken care of. We are not just looking at this as just another problem during election time… We are looking at the national economic well-being,” Chief Justice Ramana said.
The court ruled that in order to come to positive conclusions about the issue of freebies, the government as well as organisations like Niti Aayog, the Finance Commission of India, the Law Commission, the Reserve Bank of India, and the Opposition, among others, must be involved in the brainstorming process.
The court ordered the parties to submit “suggestions for a body’s composition.” It was suggested that this body may look into solutions to the problem of freebies and provide a report to the Center or the ECI. The court stated that it would issue orders once the parties provided ideas for the make-up of such a body within a week.
Senior attorney Vikas Singh argued on behalf of petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay that political parties and those in power in debt-ridden states should first be transparent about their funding sources.
Mr Singh said, “It needs to be made clear whose pockets these handouts are paid from.
Chief Justice Ramana said ordinary citizens pay taxes in the belief that their money would be used for progress.
“State benefits should not just reach the rich. The poor are also entitled to benefits,” the CJI said.
Chief Justice Ramana responded that the court would not have needed to become involved right now if the ECI had taken up the matter. The court claimed that despite this, many still disregard its rulings banning election-related violence.
Model manifestos, according to the Bench, are “empty formality” that serve no purpose. Furthermore, it would serve no value for the court to hold protracted discussions about how to formulate rules about freebies. All parties involved, including Chief Ministers and opposition parties, must work together to find a solution. The suggested body might be useful.
Mr. Upadhyay, the petitioner, claimed that the provision of “irrational gifts” amounted to bribery and improperly influenced voters. It tainted the nation’s free and fair elections.
According to Mr. Upadhyay, the combined debt of all states exceeds 70 lakh crore.