Freebies By Parties Will Lead To Economic Disaster: Centre To SC

| Updated: 03 August, 2022 5:36 pm IST

NEW DELHI: Populist election promises by political parties and freebies doled out by their governments have an adverse impact on the economy which often leads to economic disasters, the Central government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Representing the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the Election Commission of India (ECI) should examine the issue of political parties offering such freebies before elections.

“These populist promises have an adverse effect on voters. This is how we head towards economic disasters. ECI should apply mind and we can submit suggestions,” Mehta reportedly told a bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana.

The solicitor general was submitting the Central government’s response to a petition filed by BJP leader and senior lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay.

Speaking to The New Indian, Upadhyay said that the apex court has directed the Central government to seek the opinion of various bodies like the finance commission, the law commission, the Reserve Bank of India, and the NITI Aayog on the matter and submit to the court within a week.

“The Central government and the Election Commission of India (ECI) are already parties to this petition. Since its (freebies by political parties) has a larger ramification, I urged the court to direct the Centre to seek the opinion of these institutions,” he said.

The petitioner submitted before the court that states are under a cumulative debt of ₹70 lakh crores and freebies would further burden exchequers.

“States are opening a large number of liquor shops to earn revenue, which has a lot of adverse social impact and the crime rate is going up,” the BJP leader said.

In his petition, Upadhyay seeks a declaration that promise of freebies from the public fund before elections unduly influences voters, disturbs level playing field, shakes the roots of free-fair election and vitiates purity of the election process.

It also seeks the court’s direction to the Election Commission to seize election symbol and deregister the political party which promises or distributes irrational freebies from the public fund.

The plea also argued that such promises amount to bribing voters before the election, and hence, is a crime punishable under Sections 171B and 171C of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

“In alternative, court may direct Centre to enact a law to regulate political parties,” it reads.

The petition lists a number of promises made by several political parties during elections.

“In Uttar Pradesh, Congress promised a smartphone to every girl studying in Class 12, a scooty to every girl pursuing graduation, free public transport for women, eight free gas cylinders per year to every housewife, free medical treatment up to ₹10 lakh per family,” it said.

Samajwadi Party announced 300 units of free electricity to every family and ₹1500 pension per month to every woman as well as financial assistance of ₹5 lakh to the people who lost their lives in an accident while riding a cycle, its election symbol, the petition submitted.

Another party promised jobs for one daughter and one son in each family and ₹5 lakh to unemployed graduates. Some political parties promised free washing machines, housing for all, solar cooker, education load waiver, government jobs, free cable service, ₹7500 to every farmer per year, ₹1500 to housewives, and 2 GB data to all students, it submitted.

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