Derecognising parties over freebies is anti-democratic: Supreme Court

Chief Justice of India N V Ramana on Thursday acknowledged that the impact of freebies promised by political parties on the country’s financial health was “a serious issue”, but said he was in favour of recognizing any party over it. Were not because it would be “anti-democratic”.

The Chief Justice, presiding over a two-judge bench, while hearing a petition on the issue, said, “Derecognition and everything is an anti-democratic thing, which I do not like… It is a democratic country.”

“No one is saying that it is not an issue. It is a serious issue. Those who are getting benefits can say that it is a welfare state, and we deserve it. Those who are protesting can say that we are paying tax… and it has to be spent on development activities and not distributed the way the parties want.

“No one can say that it cannot be discussed, or debate cannot be started. The suggested committee can look into these issues,” he said last week to make a recommendation for the court’s suggestion. There is something undemocratic about setting up a panel. ,

The court also objected to the extent to which he could go in this matter. “I cannot ignore the amount of debate or exchange of ideas in social media, newspapers etc. The question is, to what extent can we intervene?… This is because under the Constitution there is an Election Commission, an independent body. , and there are political parties… it is the wisdom of all those people I want to consider,” he said.

“We seriously feel that it is definitely a matter of concern. There has to be some financial discipline. We are really experiencing this in other countries… Certainly, there is an issue. But in a country like India, There are issues of poverty etc. We cannot ignore those issues also. The government of India starts some schemes, state governments also start some schemes like feeding people in dry areas, sometimes in covid situations…, The CJI said.

“I am very reluctant to interfere in the issues which are to be decided by the legislature. I am a strict conservative person, you may say. I do not want to encroach upon the areas which are meant for the legislature or the executive…”, They said.

On Thursday, the Center suggested that the proposed committee may include a member of a National Taxpayers Association or a retired Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Union Finance Secretaries, Finance Secretaries of all states, and one representative from each recognized national political party. Is. , Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission, representative of RBI, CEO of NITI Aayog, a representative nominated by the Chief Election Commissioner, representative of FICCI or CII and representative of “stressed areas”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the government, said that “distributing things free of cost can never be the only way to welfare”. “There are always scientific methods of the welfare of the people. Elected governments should follow scientific methods… As far as welfare schemes are concerned, every government does and every government should do it. Now it’s a culture of freebies.” The distribution of some freebies, has been raised to the level of an art and sometimes elections are fought only by certain sections,” said Mehta.

He said that “if it is the understanding of any political class of our country that free distribution is the only way for the welfare of the people, then it creates a dangerous situation. We are leading the country towards disaster.”

Mehta urged the court to issue interim directions till the matter is probed. “The question is not merely the exercise of the power of your sovereign but the constitutional will of your sovereign to ensure that how the mandate of the constitution should be implemented. As long as the legislature or the election commission or whatever body decides Your Lordship Till then do something and place it before the court”, submitted the SG.

“(If) the government has understood the welfare of the people as the distribution of free things to a certain class … In the given circumstances, there may be justification. But if it becomes a norm, your dominion may go further and May lay down guidelines… welfare scheme should be understood by every responsible government, but distributing everything for free and taking it to an art level is not welfare,” Mehta said.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the petitioner advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, referred to the July 2013 judgment of the court in the matter. Subramaniam Balaji v State of Tamil Nadu and others”.

Stating that today, the states have a cumulative debt of Rs 15 lakh crore, he said the parties should specify in their manifestos from where the money for the promises would come. It cannot be aimed at gaining power, whatever the financial discipline, he said.

Representing the petitioners, senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing in the Subramaniam Balaji case, explained the background. “DMK promised colour TV to all those who did not have one… they came to power. In the next election, AIADMK promised laptops, grinders etc…
We challenged this on the constitutional principle, under Article 282, that money must be for a public purpose and we cited international judgments that state that where money is not spent for a public purpose, the courts have the power to withhold payments. There is judicial power,” he said.

Datar said that at that time the Supreme Court had said that giving free gifts is an application of the Directive Principles. “Giving laptops or gold chains cannot be to promote Directive Principles”, he said, adding that he did not think the proposed committee would achieve any results.

Datar said that when the Supreme Court has made free and fair elections to be part of the basic structure of the Constitution, it may consider issuing directions free of cost as well. But the CJI said, “It is a separate issue… confined to the person contesting the election only”. “In worrying about doing something, we can’t make a mistake”, he said.

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