The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Election Commission of India on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that alleged distribution of cash and other freebies at the taxpayers’ expenses.
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Mishra sought a response from the Centre, States and poll panel within four weeks.
The apex court was hearing a PIL filed by Bhattulal Jain, a social worker, and ordered that it be tagged with a pending plea on the issue.
The PIL sought comprehensive guidelines to debar political parties from distributing cash and other freebies at the expense of taxpayers.
The petition sought directions that States be directed not to misuse consolidated fund or grant in the name of public purposes, at the verge of elections.
The petition also alleged that such pre-poll promises made by political parties were “frittering away taxpayers’ money”.
It further asked the apex court to direct and declare that the promise/ distribution of irrational freebies from the public fund before the election to lure voters is analogous to bribery and undue influence.
The counsel told the bench that, “A line has to be drawn between what is public interest and what is not. Distributing cash – nothing is more atrocious than permitting the government to distribute cash. Six months before elections these things start.”
Ultimately the burden is on tax-paying citizens of this country, he said.
CJI said, “All kinds of promises are made before elections and we cannot control this.”
The plea submitted, “No government can declare free electricity, free water, free distribution or loan waiver without the approval of the legislative assembly, irrespective of which government is ruling. Since the money belongs to our taxpayers, the taxpayers should have the right to monitor its use.”
It further added, “Political parties keep on wooing the public by offering freebies for votes. Whatever projects are announced, the government should first submit their blueprint and get approval from the legislative assembly. This should also apply to the salaries of MPs and MLAs and other non-legislative benefits received by them.”