The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has moved a plea in the Supreme Court, stating that welfare schemes intended to ensure social order and economic justice cannot be called “freebies”, Live Law reported on Tuesday.
The plea seeks permission to make the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam a respondent to the public interest litigation filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay.
Upadhyay has filed a plea in the Supreme Court, seeking directions to file criminal cases against political parties for luring voters with freebies. In an earlier hearing of the plea, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had observed that freebies announced by political parties and social welfare schemes of governments are different
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam plea cited an example of the benefits of offering schemes like free electricity to citizens.
“In no imaginable reality, it could be construed as a ‘freebie’,” the plea stated, according to Live Law. “Such schemes have been introduced in order to provide basic necessities which the poor households cannot afford. They cannot be imputed to be luxuries.”
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also questioned why Upadhyay had only added the Union government and the Election Commission as respondents in his plea when policies of the state governments were under the scanner.
The Union of India is not the stakeholder in the present proceedings despite the fact that the writ petition blames those political parties which have been elected to power in the state legislature,” the plea filed by DMK stated, Live Law reported.
The DMK also urged the Supreme Court to look into the waiving of bad loans by the BJP-led Centre.
“This court cannot have a restrictive approach for classifying any scheme or act by the Union or state legislature to be a ‘freebie’ without considering the magnitude of resultant consequences and social welfare at both micro and macro level,” it added.
On August 3, the Supreme Court had suggested that an expert body consisting of various stakeholders such as the government, the Niti Aayog, the Finance Commission, the Law Commission, the Reserve Bank of India, and members of the Opposition should be formed to give their suggestions on the matter of freebies.
Meanwhile on Tuesday evening, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin said that it was his responsibility to ensure that welfare schemes reach everyone in the state, ANI reported.
“Am I going to Delhi to fold my hands and sit to hear their [government] orders?” he asked. “I am Kalaignar’s [DMK founder M Karunanidhi] son. There is a relationship between the state and the Union government and not between DMK and BJP.”
AAP files affidavit
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that curbs on making announcements during poll speeches will amount to a “wild-goose chase”, PTI reported. It also said that poll promises are part of the fundamental right of freedom of speech.
“Such a restriction or prohibition, executively or judicially imposed, would amount to a curtailment of the freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) without the backing of legislative sanction,” the party said in an affidavit. “Further, if concerns over fiscal deficit and responsibility are indeed the point of the present proceedings [in the PIL], targeting and regulating electoral speech will amount to nothing more than a wild-goose chase.”
The debate about social welfare schemes began after Prime Minister Narendra Modi described promising freebies to voters as ‘revdi culture’ on July 16.
The remarks by the prime minister invited sharp criticism from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who alleged that the central government’s opposition to social welfare schemes for the citizens showed that its finances were in a bad shape.
On Saturday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman advised states offering social welfare schemes to check their financial strength and make budgetary provisions accordingly.