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SC seeks response of Centre and EC on PIL against ‘irrational freebies’ in assembly elections


New Delhi: The Supreme Court issued notices to the Central Government and the Election Commission of India on Tuesday, seeking responses to a PIL seeking curb on mindless freebies announced by political parties on the eve of elections, which potentially could cast a huge financial burden on the exchequer of states, most of which are already under severe debt burden.


Last week, a petition was filed in the top court seeking a direction to the Election Commission to seize the election symbol or de-register a political party that promises or distributes ‘irrational freebies’ from public funds before elections. A bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli entertained the PIL filed by advocate petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay after hearing the counsel- Vikas Singh, who argued that the announcement of freebies by political parties is a sure recipe for breakdown of the financial health of the states. The court termed freebies as a serious issue which may influence the electorate and affect fairness of polls.

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The CJI-led bench referred to the 2013 SC judgment in S Subramaniam Balaji case in which the court had scoffed at the announcement of pre-election freebies, even though it had termed these as not corrupt electoral practices. SC asked the Centre and EC to specify in two weeks what steps they contemplate to regulate freebies promised during electioneering. Singh said that the finances of states, some having Rs 3 lakh per capita debt burden, would collapse as political parties compete with each other in giving monthly allowances to all women. Who will pay this additional burden, he asked.



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