Supreme Court: Freebie culture elevated to art to fight polls: Center to SC

The ‘culture of free’ has been elevated to the ‘art’ of fighting elections and will lead to ‘disaster’ if some political parties realize this is the only way to provide welfare measures public, the Center told the Supreme Court on Thursday.

In a response to the August 3 order, the Center, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, said that until the legislature or voting committee intervenes, the higher court must set out “do’s and don’ts’ for political parties in the ‘wider national interest’.

The government has submitted its recommendations to the bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana on the establishment of an expert panel to examine the issue of populist pledges of political party giveaways during elections.

Mehta said, “Gift distribution has been elevated to an art by some parties recently. Elections are only held on this plank. of free stuff is the only means of ‘welfare measures’ for society. This understanding is completely unscientific and will lead to economic disaster.”

The government has suggested that the Union Finance Secretary, the State Finance Secretaries, a representative from each of the recognized national political parties, the Chairman of the 15th Finance Committee, a representative from the Reserve Bank of India, the CEO of NITI Aayog could be part of the proposed panel. .

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He also said that a representative of a national taxpayers organization or a retired comptroller and auditor general of India could be included in the proposed panel to represent those who oppose the giveaways.

“Representative of major business organizations – Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry or Confederation of Indian Industry and representatives of identified sectors in difficulty [such as Discoms in the Power Sector]”can also be part of the panel, said the lawyer.

“Please look at some troubled sectors. Many power generation and distribution companies, most of which are state-owned, are in serious financial trouble,” he said, in a reference obvious to governments waiving electricity bills as per their pre-election promise.

The higher court was hearing a PIL filed by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, which opposes the practice of political parties promising gifts during elections and calls on the Election Commission to invoke its powers to freeze their election symbols and cancel their registration .

On August 3, the Supreme Court, while asking stakeholders like the Centre, Niti Aayog and the Finance Commission to think about the issue of gifts, had hinted that it could order the establishment of a mechanism to suggest measures to the government to deal with the issue.

“Bearing in mind the prayers made in these petitions regarding the distribution of gifts by political parties, we are of the opinion that it would be appropriate to constitute an expert group with representatives of all stakeholders”, had said the Supreme Court.

Stakeholders could include recipients, those who oppose gifts, central and state governments, opposition parties, finance commission, reserve

and Niti Aayog, among others.

“…to name a few, to take a holistic and comprehensive view of the matter and make their recommendations. Accordingly, the parties are invited to make their suggestions on the composition of such a body in a one-week deadline,” the bench said. had ordered.

Christopher S. Washington