Just a few weeks ago, the Election Commission told the Supreme Court that “freebies” and “irrational” are subjective and open to interpretation. Recognizing that “free gifts can have different effects on society, economy, equity,” the EC acknowledged that it would have greater access to its powers to regulate policy making on the subject.
Hence, on Tuesday, the Election Commission’s note to political parties in the name of voter disclosure marked a U-turn by the Election Commission.
The demand of the Election Commission from political parties to link the cost of promises and funding sources along with revenue and expenditure estimates in the state or central budget and assess the impact on fiscal stability, is one of the earlier practical approaches adopted in its various is departure. Affidavit filed in Supreme Court.
The intent of the EC appears to weigh sufficiently in the freebie debate gathering momentum after the prime minister Narendra Modi In mid-July, he targeted political opponents and cautioned people against the Revadi culture, saying it was “very dangerous” for the country, its development and welfare.
On 9 April, the Election Commission told the Supreme Court that giving or distributing freebies for elections was a policy decision of political parties and questions such as whether such policies were economically viable or would adversely affect economic health. . A state was to be considered and decided by the voter.
In an affidavit to the apex court, the ECI had said that it cannot regulate state policies and decisions, which can be taken by a party after forming the government, such action, without the backing of law. , there will be an overabundance of powers. The affidavit was filed in response to a plea by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, who wanted the court to restrain the parties from promising “irrational freebies” from public funds and prescribe a standardized declaration format for all parties.
“The Election Commission of India cannot regulate the policies and decisions of the state, which can be taken by the winning party while forming the government. Such action, without enabling provisions in the law, would amount to an overreach of powers,” it had said in April this year.
Less than two months ago, on 11 August, the Election Commission filed a supplementary affidavit in which it argued that “there is no precise definition of the word ‘free’ in the current legal/policy framework and the term ‘free’ is difficult to define.” ‘irrational freebies’, because both ‘freebies’ and ‘irrational’ are subjective and open to interpretation.”
The supplementary affidavit filed by the ECI in response to the apex court’s displeasure over its earlier stand also said that “there may be different impacts on society, economy, equity depending on the situation, context and time period”. In fact, when the apex court suggested setting up of a committee to suggest ways to deal with the issue of freebies, the Election Commission made it clear that it would not be appropriate for it to be a part of such a committee. “…It may not be appropriate for the (Election) Commission, being a constitutional authority, to offer to be part of the expert committee, especially if the expert body consists of ministries or government bodies,” it said.
The Election Commission had taken a similar stand in January 2020 in another pending petition filed by Pentapati Pulla Rao, who had contested the election as a candidate of Janasena Party. eluru Parliamentary Constituencies in Andhra Pradesh in 2019 National Elections, Direct Cash Transfer Schemes and free questions.
In its letter to political parties on Tuesday, the Election Commission said it agreed in principle with the view that it is the right of political parties to prepare manifestos, but did not ignore the undesirable impact of certain promises and proposals on the operation of freebies. could. and maintaining fair elections and equal opportunities for all political parties and candidates.
Therefore, while the EC refrained from defining freebies and did not explicitly try to regulate them, it did take an obligation to clarify the extent and extent of freebies, their financial implications, the funding mechanism and impact on financial stability. inserted. State or Centre, on political parties.