SC to Hear PIL against Political Parties Offering Freebies in Elections


The Supreme Court has agreed to schedule a hearing on Thursday for a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) concerning the practice of political parties promising freebies during elections, a significant development ahead of the general elections starting on April 19, 2024.

The PIL also seeks a direction to the Election Commission (EC) to utilize its powers to freeze election symbols and cancel the registration of such political parties.

“This is important. We will keep this on board tomorrow,” stated the bench, consisting of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, on Wednesday.

The apex court acknowledged the submissions made by senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, representing lawyer and PIL petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay, emphasizing the need to hear the plea before the Lok Sabha polls. The plea advocates for a complete ban on populist measures to gain undue political favor from voters, as they contravene the Constitution, and urges the EC to implement suitable deterrent measures.

It also requests the court to declare that the promise of irrational freebies from public funds before elections unduly influences voters, disturbs the level playing field, and undermines the purity of the electoral process. “Petitioner submits that the recent trend of political parties to influence voters by offering freebies with an eye on elections is not only the greatest threat to the survival of democratic values but also injures the spirit of the Constitution,” stated the plea.

“This unethical practice is just like giving bribes to the electorate at the cost of the exchequer to stay in power and must be avoided to preserve democratic principles and practices,” it further added.

The petition seeks a directive to the EC to include an additional condition in the relevant paragraphs of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968, which addresses conditions for recognition as a state party, stipulating that a “political party shall not promise/distribute irrational freebies from the public fund before the election.”

The petitioner urges the apex court to declare that the promise or distribution of private goods or services, which are not for public purposes from public funds, before the elections, violates several articles of the Constitution, including Article 14.

Currently, there are eight recognized national political parties and 56 state-level recognized parties. The country has around 2,800 registered unrecognised political parties.

The seven-phase elections for the 18th Lok Sabha will commence on April 19 and conclude on June 1, with votes being counted on June 4. The nomination process for 102 parliamentary constituencies spread across 21 states and Union territories where polling would be held in the first phase began on Wednesday with the issuance of a notification.

Recommended For You

About the Author: Nunnem Gangte