HC to examine political freebies

HC to examine political freebies

The election season comes with announcements of freebies by political parties seeking votes. Should there be a bar on such sops to voters?

The Delhi High Court has issued notice to the Centre and the Election Commission (EC) on a PIL contending that such promises influenced voters and affected the level playing field.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal recently asked the poll panel to explain if its guidelines on election manifestos were in conformity with the Supreme Court’s directions given in 2013.

In his PIL, Delhi resident Ashok Sharma sought direction to the EC to restrain all political parties from distributing free goods, being offered by them in the five states where Assembly elections are being held in February and March.

Freebie manifesto

From free smartphones to laptops to free data and farm loan waivers, parties have been promising them in their manifestos. The petitioner contended that the EC has not taken necessary steps to stop political parties from distributing freebies at the state’s expense .
He claimed the EC had in effect nullified the SC’s directions as it failed to restrain political parties from using public money for gaining benefits.

The apex court had in its judgement in 2013 noted that though the law is obvious that promises made in an election manifesto cannot be construed as a “corrupt practice” under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, the reality is that freebies of any kind influenced all people and affected the level playing field.

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