New Delhi, August 17
Maintaining that the term “freebie” should not be confused with genuine welfare measures, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said political parties and candidates could not be prevented from making poll promises aimed at fulfilling the constitutional mandate even as it noted that “there are no free lunches”.
During the hearing on a PIL filed by Delhi BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay against poll-eve freebies, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said the issue was “getting increasingly complicated”. “Can we describe the promise of free education as a freebie? Can free drinking water, minimum essential units of powers etc. be described as freebies? Can consumer products and free electronics be described as welfare? The concern right now is what is the right way of spending public money,” said the Bench, which is mulling to set up an expert panel on the issue.
The top court sought to highlight that promises alone didn’t decide the outcome of elections and there had been instances of parties that promised more compared to others losing elections badly.
It asked all stakeholders to furnish their suggestions on the proposed expert panel and posted the matter for further hearing on August 22.
“You cannot prevent a political party or an individual from making promises that are aimed at fulfilling the constitutional mandate if voted to power. The question is what exactly qualifies as a valid promise,” the Bench said.
“I don’t think voters are looking for freebies. Given an opportunity, they will look for dignified earnings. We have examples of schemes such as Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme which offered dignified earnings and also created public assets in rural India,” the Bench said.
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