Supreme Court on Election Freebies

By | May 19, 2022
Supreme Court on Election Freebies

Last Updated on by Admin LB

The Article ‘Supreme Court on Election Freebies‘ is an extensive analysis of the ill effects of the freebie promises before the upcoming elections as it disturbs the finance of the state and even the public is being manipulated by this kind of act. The Author cited the role of the Supreme Court as to curb the menace of such practices. Even in the year, 2013 Supreme Court ruled that free promises must not be done by the political parties.

The Supreme Court exhorted both the Central Government and the Election Commission to put an end to election freebies and take necessary steps as required. The Author through this Article is trying to make the readers understand how Supreme Court kept its strict eyes on the Election Commission and Central Government so as to preserve the elections, definitely a core concept in a democratic country.

Introduction: On Election Freebies

After understanding that political parties distribute freebies during assembly elections, senior bureaucrats are concerned. Here are the numerous high court opinions on the matter.

During a lengthy discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd April 2022, many of the nation’s highest-ranking officials voiced worry regarding the incentives and populist measures proposed by political parties for assembly elections.

Some governments may become cash-strapped like Sri Lanka or Greece as a result of the freebies. Each secretary who spoke at the event agreed that they must be persuaded to make a decision that is both politically and economically sound.

Prior Court Decision On Freebies

On January 25, 2022, a notice was sent to the Supreme Court of India and the Centre regarding how political parties in five states used the offer of goods to sway voters. The Supreme Court regarded the distribution of free goods as a “serious issue.”

The appeal was presented by attorney Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. He had requested legislation in this area from the Centre.

Free gifts are one of the most effective ways for political parties to attract people to vote for them. Politics in Tamil Nadu gave rise to the belief that residents should receive government aid. This soon became the standard campaign strategy for various political parties across the nation.

To entice voters, political parties offer free energy, free water, monthly payments for the unemployed, women, and persons who work for a daily wage, as well as computers, cell phones, and scooters.

A prior court decision about giveaways was rendered on January 25, 2022: The Supreme Court warned the Central Government and the Election Commission(EC) in a letter that the distribution of free things during the election is a “serious concern.”

According to the Supreme Court, election-night giveaways and gifts from competing political parties have the potential to undermine the integrity of elections. A petition has been issued to the Centre and the Election Commission, urging that they take measures to end this practice on the eve of elections.

Justices N V Ramana, A S Bopanna, and Hima Kohli all agreed to investigate a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) filed by advocate-petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay regarding the impact of freebies on state budgets and election integrity. They demanded that the Central Government and the Election Commission must provide their findings and conclusions in writing within four weeks.

As it pertained to the CJI, he was speechless (alleged unfounded announcement of freebies and doles). Without a question, this is a huge development. Free goods have become more valuable than paid offerings. According to the Supreme Court,

this impedes the competitiveness of all businesses. Even if they do nothing that the Representation of the People Act deems “corrupt,” candidates for political parties can gain an advantage in elections.

The court directed the EC to address a limited number of issues. As a result, the European Commission met with political parties. The bench added, “However, we do not know how far the EC’s investigation into this subject has advanced.”

A judge on the bench stated, “For the time being, we will issue a notice and give the Centre four weeks to answer,” notwithstanding his conviction that the court should hear from all political parties prior to reaching a verdict.”

Senior attorney Vikas Singh, who represented Upadhyay, emphasized that most states are deeply in debt and that political parties competing for freebies and handouts will inevitably hurt the budget of the next administration, regardless of which party wins the election.

The Supreme Court ruled on July 5, 2013, that political parties cannot provide free promises.

As a result, the Supreme Court ordered the Electoral Commission to establish regulations governing the content of election manifestos. It further ruled that gifts to political parties are inconsistent with the concept of free and fair elections. Even if the electoral manifesto is released before the code of conduct, P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi contend that the Commission has the option to include it in the code of conduct.

“There are no constraints on what a candidate’s platform may contain. We request that the Electoral Commission provide us with any additional information regarding the matter.” “Do not be anxious.” As stated by the bench, ‘

According to the Commission, emergency election regulations must be enacted. Additionally, the Supreme Court stated that this topic should be covered by its own statute.

According to the text, substantial contributions to political parties diminish the chances of candidates winning.

On the other hand, the bench dismissed the petition that challenged the J Jayalalithaa government’s determination to fulfill the AIADMK’s election promise to offer free household products to voters. In accordance with the law, offers of freebies in an electoral manifesto are not deemed corrupt practices.

Attorney S. Subramaniam Balaji argued in court against the state’s decision to give away free items. According to the petitioner, competitive populism among political parties is unethical and a significant waste of governmental resources. The petitioner asserted that Tamil Nadu’s giveaways constituted bribery of voters and breached the state’s constitutional commitment to conduct free and fair elections.

On March 31, 2021, the Madras High Court was set to rule on the proposed election pledge law. The Madras High Court reprimanded political parties for distributing gifts in an effort to lull voters to sleep. The Court of Appeals forwarded over twenty inquiries to a variety of government entities and the Federal Election Commission. These included whether the Centre planned to propose regulations requiring election promises to be reasonable, how the Commission would evaluate such promises, and what would happen if political parties did not keep their promises.

Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi ruled that political parties should not be permitted to make election promises that strain the public budget, particularly if the state is experiencing financial difficulties. Otherwise, the state will be compelled to open more liquor outlets to compensate for revenue losses.

According to Order, election manifestos were not popular thirty years ago and have only gained popularity in the recent two decades as political parties battle for voters by promising various benefits if elected.

In reality, government handouts and holiday cash make people lazier and less motivated to work, rather than helping them meet their basic needs. This means that an honest taxpayer has no say in how the government spends its money and is only a bystander during budgeting choices.

Irrational Gifts from Public Funds before an Election

According to the petition, “irrational gifts from public funds before an election” influence voters, which shakes the foundations of a free and fair election, disturbs the level playing field, and thereby violates Articles 14, 162, 266(3), and 282 of the Indian Constitution.

At one of these meetings, the ECI informed the political parties that they could not include anything in their electoral platforms that violated the Model Code of Conduct.

Despite the fact that the Constitution requires the government to care for its citizens in a variety of ways, the Elections Integrity Commission ruled that political parties should

“avoid making promises that are likely to taint the electoral process or exert undue influence on voters when they exercise their franchise.”

For the sake of fairness, transparency, and the legitimacy of promises, the electoral commission intended for election manifestos to be made public in order to “illustrate the rationale behind the promises and a fundamental plan for allocating the money.” The only way to earn public confidence is to make and keep commitments.

According to Mr. Singh, it was a violation of the ECI’s mission to conduct free and fair elections when illogical promises of freebies were made. According to him, giving privately funded goods and services to the public was a blatant violation of the law.

Conclusion

Rather than guaranteeing greater rule of law, equal pay for equal effort, clean water, equal quality education, outstanding healthcare and infrastructure, swift justice, free legal aid, and a citizen and judicial charter, politicians make arbitrary promises of free public goods.

Elections are the most crucial aspect of a democracy. When individuals question the validity of the voting process, the concept of “representation” loses any significance. Consequent to the continuous delay of elections, the quantity of money and gift pledges has increased considerably. So far, so good, based on the petition’s findings.


References

[1] Alok Ranjan, What courts have said on ‘freebies’ from parties during elections, Available Here

[2] ‘Irrational freebies’ by political parties irk Supreme Court, Available Here

[3] Subir Roy, Election freebies do poor no good, only harm the system, Available Here

[4] Perspective: Election Freebie Politics and Economy, Available Here


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Author: Vartika Kulshrestha

Content Writer and Research Intern

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