Elections Freebies: Supreme Court Refers Case To 3-Judge Bench

New Delhi: Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Friday referred a petition seeking a ban on “irrational freebies” promised by political parties to a three-judge bench, Live Law reported.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay, seeking directions to the Election Commission not to allow political parties to promise certain social welfare benefits that he described as freebies.

The verdict was delivered by Chief Justice Ramana on his last day as the CJI. He said multiple issues have to be considered in this case.

The CJI-led bench, also comprising Justices Suryakant and Hima Kohli, said that there can be no denying that in an electoral democracy, the true power lies with the electorate and the electorate judges the parties and candidates.

“Solicitor general, Election Commission of India and other parties have said freebies may create a situation where a state may not be able to provide, that freebies provided using taxpayer funds aim to increase popularity of parties. We have considered the situation from all angles. The proof ultimately lies with the electorate. Electorate judges performance of parties,” the CJI was quoted as saying.

The Supreme Court also said that the 2013 Balaji verdict, which held that distribution of TVs etc is a welfare measure and not a handout, will now be reconsidered by the three-judge bench.

Earlier on Wednesday, the CJI said there must be a “debate” on the “serious” issue relating to the practice of political parties promising freebies and asked why cannot the Centre call for an all-party meeting on it.

The top court had observed that until and unless there is a unanimous decision among political parties that freebies are going to destroy the economy and have to be stopped, nothing can happen as it is only political parties that would make such promises and contest elections, and not individuals, the report said.

Several political parties have argued that these are not freebies but welfare measures for the public. To this, the CJI had said that the court would have to consider how to define “freebies” and make a distinction between handouts and welfare measures.


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