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Supreme Court Orders Listing of Cases Before a 3-Judge Bench in Election Freebies Issue

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Supreme Court Law Insider

Khushi Bajpai

Published on: 26th August, 2022 at 18:59 IST

The Supreme Court has assigned a three-judge bench to hear cases involving promises made by political parties and freebies given out during elections.

The bench under Chief Justice NV Ramana noted that, “The parties’ concerns need a thorough hearing. There are a few preliminary hearings that must be decided upon, such as the extent of judicial intervention, if the court’s appointment of an expert body serves any purpose, etc.”

“Many parties stated that the Subramaniam Balaji ruling has to be reevaluated. The court in the aforementioned case ruled that such actions wouldn’t constitute corrupt behaviour. We send the cases to a 3-judge bench due to the complexity of the issues and the request to overrule Subramaniam Balaji.”

In the past, the CJI had proposed the creation of an expert panel made up of interested parties such as the Indian Election Commission, Finance Commission of India, Reserve Bank of India, Niti Aayog, and political parties to investigate the matter. Freebies, according to the CJI, are a big problem, and he emphasised the necessity to preserve a balance between welfare and the economy.

Freebies must be distinguished from charity programmes for the underprivileged, according to political parties like AAP, DMK, and Congress, who have weighed in on the issue.

The petition, filed by Ashwini Upadhyay, has urged the court to declare that-

  • Promise of irrational freebies from the public fund before the election unduly influences voters, disturbs the level playing field, shakes the roots of a free-fair election and vitiates the purity of the election process.
  • Promise/distribution of private goods/services, which are not for public purposes, from public funds before the election, violates Articles 14, 162, 266(3) and 282 of the Constitution.
  • Promise/distribution of irrational freebies from the public fund before election to lure voters is analogous to bribery and undue influence under Section 171B and Section 171C of the IPC.