CJI DY Chandrachud agrees to hear plea on election freebies, says important matter

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Wednesday agreed to hear a plea raising the issue of political parties promising electoral freebies. The Chief Justice agreed to retain the case on board and termed it to be an important matter.

Appearing for petitioner, Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria requested an urgent listing of the pending matter of the distribution of freebies from public funds by political parties. The counsel noted the issue of the absence of any provision in the Representation of The People Act, 1951 (RPA) bestowing powers to the Election Commission (EC) to de-register a political party.

The Chief Justice, agreeing to the urgency of the matter, said that the bench yesterday discussed that the election freebies is an important matter and that they need to look at it. Subsequently, the counsel urged the bench to list and hear the petition tomorrow itself. To this, CJI DY Chandrachud reverted that they will keep the matter on board and the moment little infructuous matters on board get cleared they will keep it. 

The case relates to a plea filed by lawyer and former BJP Delhi Spokesperson Ashwini Upadhyay seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to not permit political parties to promise freebies during election campaigns.

The plea argued that political parties make promises during elections, without any assessment on financial implication on state economy, merely to attract vote banks. Hence, the tax-payers’ money is used by political parties to remain in power and this adversely affects free and fair elections, the plea added.

The petition, filed by Ashwini Upadhyay, has urged the court to declare that promise of irrational freebies from the public fund before the election unduly influences voters, disturbs the level playing field, shakes the roots of a free-fair election and vitiates purity of election process.

Additionally, it also asked the court to declare that distribution of private goods and services, which are not for public purposes, from public funds before the election, violates Articles 14, 162, 266(3) and 282 of the Constitution. It further urged the court to rule that distribution of irrational freebies from the public fund before election to lure voters is analogous to Bribery and Undue Influence under S.171B and S.171C of the IPC.

Earlier in 2022, a bench led by the then Chief Justice of India NV Ramana referred the matter to a three-judge bench.

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