The Supreme Court, while examining the issue of political parties promising freebies before elections on Thursday, 11 August, made it clear that it will not enter into the area of deregistering political parties for the same.
A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Krishna Murari said that entertaining a request like this would go against the principles of democracy and cannot be permitted, Bar and Bench reported.
On the public interest litigation (PIL) by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, CJI Ramana said, “I do not want to enter the area of deregistering political party etc as it's an undemocratic arena. We are a democracy after all.”
The PIL sought directions from the apex court to the central government and Election Commission to take steps in order to regulate a political party’s election manifesto and hold parties accountable for promises made in such manifestos.
Bar and Bench quoted Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the central government, as saying that freebies promised by political parties need to be regulated. He added that until the legislature frames a law In this regard, the Supreme Court can step in.
“We (Centre) are proposing a committee – beneficiaries, secretary central government, secretaries of state governments, representatives of each political party, representative of NITI Aayog, RBI, Finance Commission, National Tax Payers Association, one who supports freebies, industry and stressed sectors," Mehta said.
Senior counsel Kapil Sibal said that the case is a complicated issue and needs to be decided on the basis of data.
"It is a complicated issue to be heard like this. There needs to be data before you. I have an employee who works and yesterday she had no money to travel by metro. I gave her money and then she told me she takes a free bus. It is free for women. Is it a freebie?" Sibal asked according to Bar and Bench.
CJI Ramana narrated the possible legalisation of illegalities because of such freebies.
“My father-in-law is an agriculturist and the government had said no (free) power connection to the agriculturist or land holders. He asked me if I can file a writ, but I told him it was a policy decision. One day, the irregular connection was regularised and his was not. I cannot touch a brick in my house as it violates sanction plan and the other bungalows are raising floors and next day all of its regularised. So wrongdoers are approved and law abiding people are punished.”Chief Justice NV Ramana
He added that there has to be a balance between the loss of money to the exchequer and the welfare of people.
‘Will Not Encroach Into the Legislative Domain’: CJI Ramana
The CJI also said the issue of promise to grant irrational freebies during the poll process is a “serious issue” but he will not encroach into the legislative domain even if there was a statutory vacuum on the issue.
“You can call me reluctant or conservative but I do not want to encroach upon the legislative domain...I am a strict orthodox. I do not want to encroach on the areas meant for the legislature. This is a serious issue. It is not an easy thing. Let us hear others also,” the bench said.
The bench also noted that freebies and social welfare schemes are two different things.
“Freebies and the social welfare scheme are different...Economy losing the money and the welfare of people, both have to be balanced and that is why, this debate,” the CJI said.
The CJI, whose term is ending on August 26, said that some suggestions have been made by senior lawyers and asked the remaining parties to do the needful before his retirement.
"There must be someone who can put their vision and thoughts. Please submit something before my retirement," the CJI said.
The case is set to be considered again on 17 August.
(With inputs from Bar and Bench.)