The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and the Election Commission to respond within four weeks to a petition seeking rules to deregister a political party or its symbol that distributes irrational freebies from public funds before elections, PTI reported.

A bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay.

The petitioner has sought a total ban on populist measures employed to gain favour from voters.

The bench on Tuesday said that the petition had raised serious problems, according to Bar and Bench.

“It is a serious issue and [the] freebies budget goes beyond regular budget,” Ramana said. “Even though it is not a corrupt practice, but it creates an uneven playing field.”

However, the court noted that the petitioner had cited only freebies offered by three parties – Aam Aadmi Party, Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress – while canvassing for the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections.

Justice Kohli rebuked the BJP leader for mentioning only three parties. “You have been selective in your approach,” she said.

However, the court said that since legal matters were raised in the petition, it was necessary to seek responses from the Centre and the Election Commission, Bar and Bench reported.

The petitioner had contended that money and promises of freebies had increased during campaigning. “If the integrity of [the] electoral process is compromised then the notion of representation becomes vacuous,” the plea stated.

Upadhyay has said that freebies could amount to “bribery and undue influence” as stated under Indian Penal Code sections 171(B) and 171(C).