“Some parties rely only on Freebies to get elected”: Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in Freebies hearing

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The plea filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay alleges that declaration of distribution of “irrational freebies from public funds before elections unduly influences the voters” and “interferes with the purity of the election process”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta today pointed out that there are some political parties that rely solely on Freebies in order to get elected.

He was responding to Chief Justice of India's suggestion that the central government may call for “an all party meeting” to deliberate on freebies issue.

The Solicitor General said that there are political parties who claim freebies as a “fundamental right” and there are a few others which rely only freebies to come to power.

Top Court has transferred the petition to a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud. 

The bench also comprising Hima Kohli and CT Ravikumar was informed in the beginning of the hearing by Vikas Singh Sr. Advocate that a retired Supreme Court judge should head the committee to deliberate on the issue. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the central government, responded by saying that a constitutional body should deliberate on it instead.

Upon hearing this, CJI queried as to why the central government should not call an all party meeting to deliberate on the issue. To this, SG Tushar Mehta replied saying that the apex court is already seized of the matter and secondly, it is difficult for political parties to come to a consensus. He suggested that the central  government will help in every way, and that the committee can submit a report on the issue in three months.

Singh further submitted that the Supreme Court's 2013 judgment in Subramanian Balaji v. Govt of Tamil Nadu should be reconsidered

The CJI, on hearing the submission, informed the counsels that he will list the case before a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud. 

Yesterday, CJI lashed out at Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) while hearing the plea. CJI said, “As CJI I cannot say anything but the way your party is behaving, the way your minister is talking, don’t think we are ignoring.”

Court was hearing a plea filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay alleging that declaration of distribution of irrational freebies from public funds before elections unduly influences the voters, shakes the roots of free-fair election, disturbs level playing field, vitiates the purity of election process and violates Articles 14, 162, 266(3) and 282 of the Constitution."

On an earlier date of hearing, CJI observed that there is a need to maintain a balance between the loss to the exchequer owing to freebies and welfare schemes for the benefit of the people. 

Earlier, CJI had suggested that stakeholders such as RBI, NITI Aayog, opposition parties and those who are for and against freebies should be involved in this process of engaging in constructive brainstorming and they should suggest the court about the formation of a body, which can be constituted by the court to examine the issue.

Court had asked the Government to consider involving the Finance Commission in the issue pertaining to the distribution of freebies by political parties in the vicinity of elections.

The Supreme Court issued notice in the present plea in January 2022

Notably, an application of intervention has been filed by the General Secretary, M.P Mahila Congress, Dr. Jaya Thakur before the Supreme Court in this matter stating that according to our Constitutional Doctrine, ruling parties are duty bound to frame policies for the welfare and upliftment of the weaker sections, so they are rightly giving subsidies which cannot be called freebies.

Moreover, recently, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also filed an application of intervention contending that this Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is a “non-partisan litigation” and alleged petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay’s strong ties to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Case Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs. Union of India & Anr.