Can't ban promise of freebies by political parties, amount to overreach: Election Commission to SC

Election Commission told Supreme Court that offering freebies either before or after elections is policy decision of a political party, and it can't regulate state policies and decisions taken by them

Election Commission of India (PTI)
Election Commission of India (PTI)
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PTI

The Election Commission (EC) told the Supreme Court that offering freebies either before or after elections is a policy decision of a political party, and it cannot regulate state policies and decisions taken by the parties.

In an affidavit, the EC said: "Offering/distribution of any freebies either before or after the election is a policy decision of the party concerned and whether such policies are financially viable or its adverse affect on the economic health of the state is a question that has to be considered and decided by the voters of the state.

"The Election Commission cannot regulate state policies and decisions which may be taken by the winning party when they form the government. Such an action without enabling provisions in the law, would be an overreach of powers."

The EC clarified that it does not have power to deregister a political party, except on three grounds, which were outlined by the top court in case of Indian National Congress Vs Institute of Social Welfare and others (2002).

The grounds are -- registration obtained on fraud and forgery, party ceased to have faith and allegiance to the Constitution, and any other alike ground.

The EC added that it has also made recommendations to the law ministry to enable it to exercise the power to de-register a political party and to issue necessary orders regulating registration and de-registration of political parties.


The affidavit added: "Barring political parties from promising/distributing freebies from public fund before electiona..may result in a situation where the parties will lose their recognition even before they display their electoral performance in the lections".

The EC's response filed the affidavit in response to a PIL filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.

The PIL claimed that the promise or distribution of irrational freebies from public funds before polls shakes the roots of a free and fair election, and vitiates the purity of the election process.

The plea sought a direction from the top court to declare that the promise of irrational freebies, which are not for public purposes, from public funds before election, violates Articles 14, 162, 266(3), and 282 of the Constitution.

On January 25, the apex court had issued notice on the plea.

The plea contended that a condition should be imposed on the political party that they would not promise or distribute irrational freebies from the public fund. The EC responded that it "may result in a situation where the political parties will lose their recognition even before they display their electoral performance".

It also contended that political parties' promises to lure voters in their favour is analogous to bribery and undue influences.

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Published: 09 Apr 2022, 3:30 PM