"Political parties (are rightly) giving/offering subsidies and concession to our citizen because ultimately they are discharging their constitutional mandate, which is necessary for the Democratic structure of our country," a Madhya Pradesh-based Doctor and General Secretary, M.P. Mahila Congress has submitted before the Supreme Court.
The submission has been made in an intervention application moved by Dr. Jaya Thakur through advocate Varun Thakur seeking impleadment in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) Petition moved by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay on the 'Election Freebies' issue.
Essentially, the plea by Upadhyay seeks a direction to the ECI to not permit political parties to promise or distribute irrational freebies from the public fund before elections and de-register political parties or seize the election symbol of the parties which do so.
Averring that she has a strong faith in Democracy and as per our Doctrine of Constitution, Congress leader has further stated in her application that the ruling parties are duty bound to frame the Policies for welfare & uplifting of the weaker section, accordingly they are rightly giving subsidies and it cannot be said freebies.
It may be noted that while hearing Upadhyay's plea, on August 3, the Top Court had opined that an expert body consisting of various stakeholders such as Niti Aayog, Finance Commission, Law Commission, Reserve Bank of India, members of ruling and opposition parties would be required to give suggestions to address the issue of the promise of freebies during election campaigns.
To enable the Court to pass an order for the constitution of such a body, the bench directed the petitioner, the Central Government, and the Election Commission of India to give suggestions, however, the Election Commission of India has declined to be part of the expert body proposed to be constituted by the Supreme Court.
On August 11, the Supreme Court had stressed on creating a balance between the welfare of the State and the economic strain on the public exchequer. "Economy losing money and the welfare of people, both have to be balanced. That's why this debate and there must be someone to put thoughts to the vision," the CJI said.
The bench of CJI NV Ramana and Justice Krishna Murari had also refused to look into the aspect of de-registering political parties for distributing freebies. "I don't want to look into the aspect of de-registration. That's an anti-democratic thing. We are a democracy after all," the CJI said.
The Top Court had also said that another question that required to be considered was the extent to which the Court could interfere in the issue.
"Question is, now to what extent we can interfere or go into the issue? The reason is there is ECI, which is an independent body and the political parties are there. Everyone is there. It's the wisdom of all those people. It's definitely an issue of concern & financial discipline has to be there but in a country like India where poverty is there we can't ignore that issue," CJI said.
Read more about what transpired on August 11 here: Freebies Issue : Supreme Court Says Balance Needed Between Economy & Welfare Of People
The Top Court has already termed freebies a "serious issue" and has also expressed reservations with respect to the ECI stand that offering freebies is a policy decision of a party and that the Commission cannot regulate state policies and decisions which may be taken by the winning party when they form the government.
The plea by Upadhyay had prayed before the Court to declare that :
- Promise of irrational freebies from public fund before election unduly influences voters, disturbs level playing field, shakes roots of free-fair election and vitiates purity of election process.
- Promise/distribution of private goods/services, which are not for public purposes, from public funds before election, violate Articles 14, 162, 266(3) and 282 of the Constitution.
- Promise/distribution of irrational freebies from the public fund before election to lure voters is analogous to Bribery and Undue Influence under S.171B and S.171C of the IPC.