“Request the opinion of the Finance Committee on the promise of gifts by political parties”, SC at the Center

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the central government to engage with the Finance Commission on the issue of political parties inciting voters through giveaways, and consider whether it is possible to regulate it taking into account the money spent on gifts.

A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana and made up of Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli told Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, representing the central government, “please inquire with the Finance Commission. I will list that next week…what is the authority to start a debate…”

During the hearing, Judge Ramana asked lead attorney Kapil Sibal, who was present in the courtroom for another case, his views on a PIL questioning giveaways announced in polls by the political parties. The Chief Justice said: “Mr. Sibal is here as a senior parliamentarian. What is your opinion ? »

Sibal responded that gifts are a serious matter but difficult to control politically and that the Finance Committee, while allocating allocations to various states, should take them into account – the states’ debt, then the gifts. “The Center cannot be expected to give instructions,” Sibal said, adding that the Finance Commission is the competent authority to look into this matter. The bench said: ‘We direct the Government of India to seek instructions on this matter…’

The lawyer for the Election Commission of India argued that it had been ruled in previous judgments that a manifesto was part of a political party’s promises. The bench replied: “We are on freebies to bribe the electorate. Now, if you say this does not concern you, then what is the purpose of the Election Commission of India? The CIS lawyer suggested that the central government could pass a law to deal with the issue, but Nataraj suggested that it is the domain of the CIS.

The bench replied that in this scenario, it will record that the central government has no say in this, and asked, “Why is the Center reluctant to take a stand?”

The higher court was hearing a PIL from lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay against advertisements made by political parties to induce voters, through giveaways, during elections. During the hearing, Upadhyay claimed, “If I am a citizen of UP, I have the right to know how much debt we have…”

Upadhyay argued that the ECI should ban state and national parties from making such promises. After hearing arguments, the higher court scheduled the case for a rehearing next week.

In April this year, the ECI told the Supreme Court that the giving of gifts before or after the election was a political decision of the political party and that it could not regulate state policies and decisions. taken by the parties.

In an affidavit, the ECI said, “Giving/distributing gifts before or after elections is a political decision of the party concerned and whether such policies are financially viable or their adverse effects on the economic health of the state is a question this must be considered and decided by the voters of the State.

He further added, “The Electoral Commission cannot regulate state policies and decisions that may be taken by the winning party when it forms the government. Such action without enabling provisions in the law would be an excess of powers.

Upadhyay’s PIL claimed that the promise or distribution of irrational gifts from public funds before the polls undermines the roots of a free and fair election and vitiates the purity of the electoral process. The plea sought an instruction from the highest court to declare that the promise of irrational gifts, which are not for public purposes, from public funds before the election violates sections 14, 162, 266(3) and 282 of the Constitution.

The plea argued that a condition should be imposed on the political party that it would not promise or distribute irrational gifts from the public fund. The EC replied that this “could lead to a situation where political parties would lose their recognition even before displaying their electoral performance”. On January 25, the higher court had issued a notice of plea.