PIL filed in Top Court against freebies by Indian political parties

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A PIL has been filed in the Pinnacle Court seeking guidelines of the Election Commission of India (ECI) to seize the election symbol or deregister a political party that promises or distributes “irrational freebies” from public funds before elections.

The petition has been filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay through Ashwani Kumar Dubey. The petition said that the promise/distribution of private goods/services, which are not for public purposes, from public funds before the election, violates Articles 14, 162, 266(3), and 282 of the Constitution.

The petition further said the promise / distribution of irrational freebies from the public fund before the election to lure voters is analogous to bribery and undue influence under Section 171B and Section 171C of the IPC.

“Petitioner submits that recent trend of political parties to influence voters by offering freebies with an eye on elections is not only the greatest threat to the survival of democratic values but also injures the spirit of the Constitution,” said the plea filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey.

“This unethical practice is just like giving bribes to the electorate at the cost of the exchequer to stay in power and must be avoided to preserve democratic principles and practices,” it said.

The injury to the citizens is extremely large because Punjab needs Rs 12,000 crore per month to fulfill the political promises if AAP comes in power; Rs 25,000 crore per month if SAD comes in power and Rs 30,000 crore if Congress comes to power, although GST collection is only Rs 1,400 crore, it pointed out. 

"In fact, after debt repayment, Punjab government is not able pay even salaries-pensions, then how will it provide freebies? The bitter truth is that Punjab’s debt is increasing every subsequent year. State’s outstanding debt has increased to Rs 77,000 crore, with Rs 30,000 crore accumulating in present financial year itself," it claimed.

The petitioner said that the time is not too far away when one party will say that “we will cook food for you in your residence” and another will say that “we will not only cook, but also feed you” as each party tried to undo each other in terms of populist promises.

The facts constituting cause of action accrued on December 9, 2021 and on the subsequent days, when rather than promising better rule of law, equal pay for equal work, clean water, equal quality education, quality healthcare, quality infrastructure, speedy justice, free legal aid, citizen charter, judicial charter, efficient police system, effective administrative system; political parties arbitrarily promised irrational freebies from public fund.

It said there should be a total ban on such populist measures to gain undue political favours from the voters as they violate the Constitution and the ECI should take suitable deterrent measures.

The plea urged the court to declare that the promise of irrational freebies from public funds before elections unduly influences the voters, disturbs the level playing field and vitiates the purity of the poll process.

The petitioner further finally said that bribery and undue influence was defined in 1920 and the then lawmakers wouldn’t have imagined that future politicians will stoop to such low levels and that’s why there is an exemption for public policies and public action under Sections 171B and 171C.