Poll-eve freebies under Supreme Court scanner

New Delhi: The poll-eve freebies and direct cash transfer schemes like PM Modi''s Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme of Rs 6,000 per annum to farmers in three installments on Tuesday came under the Supreme Court''s scrutiny.

The Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose issued notices to the Election Commission, the Centre and five state governments for their response after a brief hearing on a petition seeking ban on such allurements.

The petition refers to how the ruling parties took political advantage with such schemes while referring to the PM’s scheme as also those of the state governments of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana, Odisha and Jharkhand.

The petition was filed by Pentapati Pulla Rao, who unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha election from Elluru constituency in Andhra Pradesh as a candidate of the Pawan Kalyan-led Janasena Party.

The Bench agreed to look into the demand for framing comprehensive guidelines on freebies, Direct Cash Transfer Schemes and other such allurements by the party in power.

Rao’s lawyers Santosh Pal and Sarvan Kumar told the court that the direct cash transfer schemes and announcement of freebies ahead of the polls amount to electoral malpractice.

The petition also seeks a direction to the Election Commission to fix a minimum time, preferably six months before the poll announcement, to prohibit the parties in power from any such scheme that may impact on free and fair elections.

The petitioner elaborated some of the schemes. It pointed out that the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme, which came into operation from December 2018, three months before general elections were announced, by way of Direct Benefit (Cash) Transfer (DBT) proposed to transfer ?6,000 to 12.50 crore farmers.

About the schemes in Andhra Pradesh, Rao said there was misuse of public money to allegedly bribe the voters in the name of Pasupu Kumkuma scheme, NTR Bharosa and Mukhya Mantri Yuva Nestam.

Rao, an economist by profession, said all such schemes should be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Article 14, 21, 112, 202 of the Constitution.

He also referred to the apex court''s 2013 judgment in Subramanium versus State of Tamil Nadu in which there was a direction to the Election Commission to frame guidelines for regulating grant of freebies by government on the eve of elections to ensure free, fair and level playing field.

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