SC asks Centre, Niti Aayog, others to brainstorm on ‘serious issue’ of freebies
New Delhi, August 3: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked stakeholders like the Centre, Niti Aayog, Finance Commission and the RBI, to brainstorm on the “serious” issue of freebies announced during elections and put forth constructive suggestions to tackle it, saying no political party will oppose such handouts or like to debate it in Parliament.
A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli hinted at ordering setting up a mechanism for suggesting measures to the government to deal with the issue.
The Election Commission and the government cannot say that we cannot do anything about this. They have to consider the issue and give suggestions, the bench said.
The Centre, through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, supported the PIL and said,”The freebies distribution inevitably leads to future economic disaster and the voters also cannot exercise their right to choose as an informed, wise decision.
The top court, while listing the PIL of lawyer Ashwini Updhyay for further hearing on Thursday, said all stakeholders should think on it and give suggestions so it could set up a body to address the issue.
We are of the considered opinion that all the stakeholder, beneficiaries… and the government and organisations like Niti Aayog, Finance Commission, RBI and the opposition parties have to be involved in the process of brainstorming and giving some constructive suggestions on these issues.
We direct all the parties to make suggestions about the composition of such a body to enable us to pass an order for constitution of the body so that they can make suggestions,” the bench said in its order.
The PIL opposes the practice of political parties promising freebies during elections and seeks the Election Commission to invoke its powers to freeze their election symbols and cancel their registration.
During the hearing, the bench said no political parties would like to debate it in Parliament as everybody wants this practice to continue, after senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the Finance Commission is best equipped to deal with this aspect.
“Mr Sibal, do you think there will be a debate in Parliament? Which political party would debate? No political party would oppose freebies. These days everyone wants freebies, the CJI said.
At the outset, senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Upadhyay, said political parties should take into account the public debt of a state promising the freebies, and urged the bench to make the Reserve Bank of India a party to the plea.
“If you are making the promise …then there is a certain amount from where you will take it? …You have to show where the amount would come from. It needs to be seen as to from whose pocket it goes,” the senior lawyer said.
After the bench said the Election Commission had refused to do anything about it, the solicitor general suggested the poll panel may be asked to reconsider its stand.
The bench, on being told about the issue of implementation of the model code for elections, said, “These are all empty formalities. When does the model code of conduct come into play? Just before the elections. All the four years you will do something and then at the end you will include a model code of conduct.” (PTI)