Distributing Freebies By Political Parties a "Serious Issue": SC

A bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Krishna Murari said the economy losing money and the welfare of people, both have to be balanced.
The Supreme Court of India (SC)
The Supreme Court of India (SC)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stated that promising and distributing freebies by political parties during election campaigns is a “serious issue”, adding that the money should instead be spent of infrastructure etc.

A bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Krishna Murari said the economy losing money and the welfare of people, both have to be balanced.

"Economy losing money and welfare of people, both have to be balanced. That is why this debate and there must be someone who can put their vision and thoughts. Please submit something," the bench told the parties in the case.

The apex court was hearing a plea seeking direction to seize election symbols and deregister political parties that promised to distribute irrational freebies from public funds.

"It's a serious issue. People who are opposing have a right to say that they are paying tax. The amount has to spend for infrastructure etc and not on distributing money," said the CJI.

"It's definitely an issue of concern and financial discipline has to be there but in a country like India where poverty is there we can't ignore that issue," the CJI said, further adding that the issue requires discussion.

The CJI also said that he is "strict orthodox" and doesn't want to encroach on the areas meant by the legislature.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Aam Aadmi Party, opposed the PIL saying there is confusion between giving freebies and welfare schemes, and this word freebies is used in the very wrong manner.

Singhvi said welfare measures are a political bargain which is done between the electorate and the elected. "Thus we have formulated the universal adult franchise. Judicial reassessment makes the court enter into the political thicket which courts have refused to do earlier," he added.

To this, CJI replied, "That is why we are cautious and we expressed reservation to what extent we can go. You cannot tell us that don't examine this."

AAP had filed an application stating that electoral promises such as free water, free electricity, and free transport are not 'freebies' but these schemes are absolutely essential in an unequal society.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for Centre told the bench that if we say distributing freebies is only way to achieve welfare schemes then it is a road to economic disaster.

He suggested that till the legislature is doing it anything on freebies, Supreme Court can lay down guidelines.

On petitioner's request for de-registration of political parties promising freebies, CJI said he doesnt want to enter the area of de-registering political party etc. as it's an "undemocratic arena" and "we are a democracy after all".

The bench now posted the matter for further hearing on August 17.

(With Inputs from ANI)

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