Court gives Centre, election panel four weeks to reply
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre and the Election Commission on a plea seeking to curb the political parties from promising freebies in their election manifestos, thereby putting under further strain the exchequer of already debt-ridden state finances.
Describing the issue as “serious”, Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, heading a bench also comprising Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice Hima Kohli, expressed his doubts on how to go about the practice of all the political parties promising freebies to the electorate on the eve of state Assembly elections.
The court gave both the Centre and the Election Commission four weeks’ time to reply.
“Tell us how we can manage it. We must also know how we are going to control it,” CJI Ramana told senior lawyer Vikas Singh who had appeared for PIL petitioner and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
Singh referred to an Election Symbol order and told the court that if a political party does not desist from promising freebies, then Election Commission can use this in the next election to freeze the symbol and deregister it.
Senior lawyer told the court that the Election Commission did issue guidelines to curb freebies but they are toothless and can’t be enforced.
The court also asked Singh to read from an earlier judgment of the top court where the court had adversely commented on the announcement of freebies including cash transfers at the time of the elections and had described them as corrupt practices.
At the outset of the hearing as Vikas Singh told the court that all political parties were announcing freebies, CJI Ramana asked him, “If all parties are doing it, why did you name just two parties only” in your petition.