Published on: 02 September 2023 at 12:43 IST
The Supreme Court, declined to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates accusing Congress party leaders and their representatives of distributing plastic gift cards to voters in various constituencies during the lead-up to the 2023 Karnataka assembly elections.
These unsuccessful candidates, Gautham Gowda M and Prasad KR were seeking legal action against alleged election violations.
A bench consisting of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala dismissed the petition but granted the petitioners the option to approach the high court with their grievances. During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud asked the petitioners’ counsel, “What can we do, Ma’am? You claim money is being distributed in an election. Do you expect us to now go there and investigate? There are already enough laws and guidelines on this subject. You can go to the high court. The high courts have sufficient powers to deal with issues within their own jurisdictions.”
The bench concluded, stating, “We are not inclined to entertain the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. The petition is dismissed. However, the petitioners would be at liberty to pursue appropriate remedies available.”
In their petition, Gowda and Prasad alleged election violations and corrupt practices in as many as 42 constituencies, including the ones they contested in, during the May 2023 Karnataka assembly elections.
Their allegations revolved around purported actions by leaders of the Indian National Congress (INC) party and their agents one day before the elections.
The petitioners claimed that plastic gift cards were distributed on behalf of the Congress, with the false promise that voters could redeem a certain amount if the Congress candidate won the election. However, the petitioners alleged that the barcodes on these gift cards were fake, rendering them worthless.
Gowda and Prasad further alleged that despite multiple complaints being filed by one of the petitioners and others, the election commission had taken no action. Consequently, they urged the Supreme Court to issue directions to the election commission to promptly establish additional guidelines alongside the existing model code of conduct.
They also called for the implementation of “corrective measures” to prevent corrupt practices and to ensure that the alleged “Karnataka model” is not replicated in other states. The petitioners additionally sought guidelines through which the Election Commission could collaborate with other authorities to enforce relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Representation of People Act, and the Constitution to penalize those involved in corrupt practices.