The Election Commission (EC) told the Supreme Court that distributing freebies is a policy decision of a political party, and that it does not have the power to intervene.
This was in response to a petition that sought deregistration of political parties for offering or distributing freebies.
Whether such decisions are financially viable or have an adverse effect, has to be decided by the voters, said the EC.
It said that it cannot regulate such policy decisions which are taken by the winning party when they form the government, adding that such an action would be an overreach of its powers.
The poll panel said, “It is also submitted that the Election Commission of India has also made recommendations to the law ministry to enable it to exercise the powers to de-register a political party and to issue necessary orders regulating registration and de-registration of political parties.”
In 2002, the Supreme Court had given a verdict that the EC had the power to seize the election symbol and deregister a political party only on three grounds.
The Commission said, “As per the said judgment of his court, it is observed that ECI has no power to de-register a political party, except on three grounds. It is submitted that prayer made in the writ petition that directs the ECI to seize symbols/deregister the political party which promises/distribute irrational freebies from public funds, does not fall under any of the said three exceptions.”
On 25 January, Supreme Court had sought replies from the Centre and the EC on a PIL seeking direction to seize the symbol or deregister a party that promises freebies, saying that it is a serious issue and that sometimes the budget for freebies is more than the regular budget.
The plea was filed before legislative assembly elections in five states and asked for a total ban on such measures that are aimed at gaining undue political favour from voters.