SC Calls 'Irrational Freebies', A 'Serious' Issue, Questions Centre And EC
The court also wondered why the Centre was hesitant about taking a stand on the issue.
It asked the Centre whether the view of the Finance Commission can be sought.
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday (26 July) hit out at both the central government and the Election Commission of India (ECI) for not doing much on the "serious" issue of the promise of "irrational freebies" made by political parties during elections.
The top court had on 25 January sought replies from the Centre and the Election Commission on the PIL seeking direction to seize the symbol or deregister a political party that promises or distributes 'irrational freebies' before polls as sometimes “freebie budget is going beyond regular budget”.
ECI submitted an affidavit in April saying that offering freebies before polls and their execution after the results are the policy decisions of political parties, and the Central government and not the poll panel, will be the best suited for dealing with this issue.
“God save the Election Commission of India if it’s saying that we can’t do anything when the electorates are sought to be bribed through freebies...We are suggesting that this (freebies) has to be controlled. How it is going to be done needs to be examined,” said the bench according to Hindustan Times.
The bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli is hearing the petition filed by Ashwini Upadhyay.
The court also wondered why the Centre was hesitant about taking a stand on the issue and asked the Centre whether the view of the Finance Commission can be sought to deal with the issue after the Election Commission said it cannot regulate political parties on it.
The bench, during the brief hearing, sought the views of senior advocate and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal.
"This is a serious matter. Truly serious! The solutions are very difficult but the issue is extremely serious. It is the Finance Commission which gives out allocation to the states... they can take into account the debt of a state and the quantum of freebies. Maybe we can invite the commission to look into this aspect. We cannot expect the Government of India to issue directions to states. This is not possible and this will create a political issue," Sibal said.
"Please find out from the Finance Commission as to whether this takes place. You find out who is the authority where we can initiate a debate or something. I will list it next week. We direct the Government of India to get instructions in this matter...," the CJI told the Additional Solicitor General K M Natraj, appearing on behalf of the Centre.
On the other hand, the ASG insisted the issue needed to be dealt with by the EC. “There cannot be a general direction in matters like these. This will have to be done on a case-by-case basis and the Election Commission will have to decide it,” he argued.
The bench was also irked that the central government has not submitted any formal reply to convey its stand on the issue. The court said that on the basis of Centre's categorical stand, it can decide whether freebies can continue or not.
(With inputs from PTI)
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