New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that political parties cannot be prevented from making promises to the electorate in election manifestos or during election campaigns, such as promising better and remunerative prices to farmers for their products, water free drinking, minimum units of free energy, etc. but says his concern was the right way to use public money.
Chief Justice NV Ramana, leading a bench which also includes Justice JK Maheshwari and Justice Hima Kohli, observed that the issue has become increasingly complicated and that a distinction must be made between what constitutes a gift and what is not. In a pose on “what constituted a freebie,” Chief Justice Ramana said, “We cannot prevent political parties from making promises. The question is what constitutes good promises. Can we qualify as free the promise of better remunerative prices to farmers? The promise of free education, clean water, minimum power units, etc. can it be called free? Can the promise of free consumer goods and electronics qualify as welfare? »
“The current concern is what is the right way to spend public money. Some people say the money is wasted; some say it is welfare. The issues are getting more and more complicated. You give your opinions, ultimately after debate and discussion we will decide,” Chief Justice Ramana said, asking all parties to submit their suggestions by Saturday evening (August 20) and released the case for hearing on August 22.
In this context, social protection schemes, the court cited the example of schemes such as the MNREGA, which gave citizens the “dignity to live”.
In an aside apparently suggesting that sometimes the promise of freebies does not catapult a party into power, CJI Ramana said that even after making promises to the electorate, some parties still did not get elected.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay asking the election commission to seize election symbols and delist political parties that promise to distribute irrational gifts using public funds.
Political parties like Aam Aadmi Party, Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) sought to intervene in the case and opposed the appeal.
Lead Advocate P. Wilson, representing DMK, argued that the petitioner was trying to convert India from a “socialist country to a capitalist country”.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said: “If our understanding of welfare is to hand out everything for free, then I’m sorry to say that, but that’s an immature understanding.