The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between “freebies” and social welfare schemes, reported Live Law.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana is hearing a petition filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking directions to the Election Commission to not allow political parties to promise “freebies” during poll campaigns.
Several political parties such as the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam have filed intervention applications seeking that the court should hear their stand on the matter.
“We cannot prevent political parties from making promises,” Chief Justice Ramana orally observed on Wednesday. “The question is what constitutes right promises? Can we describe the promise of free education as a freebie? Can free drinking water, minimum essential units of powers etc. be described as freebies? Can consumer products and free electronics [be] described as welfare?”
Ramana said that the court’s concern is the question about what the right way of spending public money on welfare schemes is.
“Some people say money is wasted, some say it is welfare,” he said. “The issues are getting increasingly complicated. You give your opinions, ultimately, after debate and discussion, we’ll decide.”
Ramana also said that promises given by political parties ahead of elections do not alone result in victories. He added that some schemes, such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, give dignity of living, according to Bar and Bench.
The court said that all the stakeholders in the matter will have to be heard at length on what constitutes “freebies”.
It then posted the case for further hearing on August 22.
On August 11, Ramana had orally observed that there was a difference between freebies announced by political parties and social welfare schemes of governments.
On August 3, the 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.