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When the matter was being heard, the CJI noticed that Senior Advocate and Parliamentarian Kapil Sibal was present in the court hall for some other matter. CJI then called Sibal to express his opinion on the matter.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Justice NV Ramana today asked the Central Government to consider involving the Finance Commission in the issue pertaining to distribution of freebies by political parties in the vicinity of elections.
The bench, also consisting of Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, asked ASG KM Nataraj to consider as to how a debate can be initiated in this regard.
When the matter was being heard, the CJI noticed that Senior Advocate and Parliamentarian Kapil Sibal was present in the court hall for some other matter. The CJI then called him to express his opinion on the matter.
Sibal told the court that a solution for the freebie problem may be difficult though he emphasised on the fact that the problem is very serious. He suggested that when Finance Commission makes allocations to various states, they should take State's debt and freebies into account. Sibal said that the government cannot be expected to issue directions.
The court was hearing a plea filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay alleging that the declaration of distribution of irrational freebies from public fund before elections unduly influences the voters, shakes the roots of free-fair election, disturbs level playing field, vitiates the purity of election process and also violates Articles 14, 162, 266(3) and 282 of the Constitution.
The petition has sought direction to the Election Commission of India to seize election symbols and deregister political parties, which promise/ distribute irrational freebies from public fund before an election and to Centre to enact Law in this regard.
The plea stated that "Aam Aadmi Party promised Rs. 1000 per month to every woman aged 18 and above and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) promised Rs. 2000 to each woman to lure them.
The plea has sought the following directions:
A) direct and declare that promise of irrational freebies from public fund before election unduly influences voters, disturbs level playing field, shakes roots of free-fair election & vitiates purity of election process;
b) direct & declare that promise/distribution of private goods/services, which are not for public purposes, from public funds before election, violate Articles 14, 162, 266(3) and 282 of the Constitution;
c) direct & declare that promise/ distribution of irrational freebies from the public fund before election to lure voters is analogous to the Bribery and Undue Influence under S.171B and S.171C of the IPC;
d) direct the ECI to insert an additional condition: “political party shall not promise/distribute irrational freebies from the public fund before election” in Paras 6A, 6B and 6C of the Election Symbols Order 1968;
The Supreme Court had issued notice in the plea in January, 2022.
Case title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay Vs Union of India
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