challenging the Tamilnadu State’s distribution of “freebies”-(Mixers, Grinders, Fans and Laptops).
The petitioner alleged that competitive populism resorted to by the political parties was unconstitutional and there had been a huge drain on the state exchequer and he contended that the freebies offerred by the Tamilnadu Government amounted to bribing the voters indirectly and ran counter to the constitutional mandated of free and fair elections.
A Supreme Court Bench, comprising Justice P.Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi passed an order on the petition as detailed below:
The Supreme Court Bench dismissed the above plea challenging the decision of the Government of Tamilnadu of J.Jayalalithaa to implement AIADMK’s poll promises of free household items to voters, saying that under the present law, promises of freebies made in the election manifestos of the political parties do not amount to corrupt practices as per Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act/RP Act.
However, the freebies promised in the election manifestoes of the political parties would shake the root of free and fair elections.
Generally political parties in India release their election manifesto before the announcement of the election date and strictly speaking, the Election Commission will not have the authority to regulate any act which is done before the announcement of the election date.
An exception can be made in this regard as the purpose of the election manifesto is directly associated with the election process.
The Supreme Court Bench has directed the Election Commission of India/EC to frame the guidelines of Political Parties and Candidates, in consultation with all the recognized political parties.
Given below is a portion of Section 123 of The Representation of the People Act- 1951:
Section 123 in The Representation Of The People Act, 1951.
123. Corrupt practices.
The following shall be deemed to be corrupt practices for the purposes of this Act:
(1) 4[ ” Bribery”, that is to say-
(A) any gift, offer or promise by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent of any gratification, to any person whomsoever, with the object, directly or indirectly of inducing-
(a) a person to stand or not to stand as, or 5[ to withdraw or not to withdraw] from being a candidate at an election, or
(b) an elector to vote or refrain from voting at an election, or as a reward to-
(i) a person for having so stood or not stood, or for 6[ having withdrawn or not having withdrawn] his candidature; or
(ii) an elector for having voted or refrained from voting;
According to the Supreme Court of India, the promises of the political parties in their election manifestoes, for freebies at the cost of the Government/from the Tax-Payers’ money well in advance to the announcement of the date of election would not come under bribery under the above quoted section 123 of RP Act.
Any amendment to the above Section 123 of RP Act to bring the promises for freebies in the election manifesto, can and must be done, by the Parliament of India, comprising the members from political parties, both ruling and opposition.
It appears that almost all the political parties in India are interested in the “social welfare” of the poor and the downtrodden and all of them believe that “freebies” would lift the status of common man of India.
Do you think that the political parties in India, would willingly stop the election manifesto- promises for “freebies” etc. ? NEVER!