The Allahabad High Court has asked the Indian National Congress to respond to the Public Interest Litigation filed against its Nyay Scheme.
A lawyer, Mohit Kumar, had approached the High Court alleging that the declaration made by the party in its Election Manifesto ensuring minimum income guarantee/payment of Rs. 72,000/- per annum is nothing but a bribe to the voters inducing them to vote for Congress candidates. He has prayed for a direction to Election Commission of India to order deletion of such a declaration made in Election Manifesto and also to restrain the party and its candidates from taking benefit of the Nyay Scheme.
The bench comprising Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Rajendra Kumar took note of the relevant provisions of Representation of People Act and said:
"What constitutes "Corrupt Practice", has been enumerated in Section 123 of Act, 1951 which includes "bribery", that is to say, any gift, offer or promise of a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of candidate, his Election Agent or any gratification to any person whomsoever with the object, directly or indirectly, inducing an Elector to vote or as a reward to elector having voted. It also includes the receipt of or agreement to receive any gratification whether as a motive or a reward by a person, whomsoever, for himself or any other person, for voting or refraining from voting or inducing or attempting to induce any elector to vote.. In explanation to Section 123 it is said that "gratification" is not restricted to pecuniary gratifications or gratifications estimable in money and it includes all forms of entertainment and all forms of employment for reward."
The bench made these two queries to the Election commission.
If an Election Manifesto contains some promises which may satisfy the definition of "corrupt practice" as defined under Section 123 for example, in the present case, bribery to voters, can immediate action be not taken by ECI prohibiting canvassing of such conditions by such Party and/or declaring Party itself or the Party's candidate taking advantage of such election manifesto, disqualified for election.
If such promises, as noticed above, are made by any Political Party or candidate in an Election Manifesto, is there any other method or suggestion available with ECI to prohibit and prevent such Political Party or candidates from taking advantage by publishing such an Election Manifesto containing promises or representations which violate MCC and provisions of RP Act, 1951, as noticed above.
The matter has been posted to 13th May.