The Supreme Court on Tuesday served notices to the Centre and the Election Commission and sought their replies within two weeks on a PIL filed by Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking to stop the mindless freebies offered by the political parties on the eve of elections, putting huge financial burden on the exchequer.
The petitioner has further sought enactment of a law that would permit the EC to seize the poll symbol and deregister political parties, which promise or distribute freebies using public funds before elections.
A Bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli said that the petition raises a serious issue. "It is a serious issue and freebies budget goes beyond regular budget. Even though it is not a corrupt practice, but it creates an uneven playing field," the CJI remarked.
However, the Bench also pointed out how the petitioner had selectively named parties and States in the petition. "You have named only two in affidavit," the CJI said.
The court nevertheless proceeded to issue notice in view of the legal issue raised in the plea. It has listed the matter for further hearing after four weeks on February 25.
The plea cited the following examples from the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections:
1. Aam Aadmi Party promised ₹1,000 per month to every woman aged 18;
2. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) promised ₹2000 to each woman;
3. Thereafter, the Congress not only promised ₹2000 per month and 8 gas cylinders per year to every housewife but also promised a Scooty to every collage going girl, ₹20,000 after passing 12th class, ₹15,000 after passing 10th class, ₹10,000 after passing 8th class and ₹5,000 after passing 5th
4. For UP Assembly elections, 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
Distribution of money and promise of freebies has reached alarming levels, the petitioner contended. "If the integrity of electoral process is compromised then the notion of representation becomes vacuous," the plea said.