EC powers not ornaments, should act against parties that breach norms: HC
New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Wednesday observed that the Election Commission’s (EC) powers are not “ornaments” and the panel should take action against political parties who violate its guidelines on “corrupt practices”.
“You are doubtful about your powers. There is a judgment by the Supreme Court. That means some wrong is committed by the party. You are ECI. If some party is committing a wrong, what power you are vested with, take action…,” the bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh observed.
The high court was hearing a petition filed by two lawyers, Parashar Narayan Sharma and Capt Gurvinder Singh, which asked the high court to declare election promises by political parties to give money to people without doing any work as a corrupt electoral practice.
The petition cited the Nyuntam Aay Scheme, or NYAY, announced by the Congress in 2019 ahead of the general elections as one example. It said the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) also offered cash to certain sections of the society ahead of the general elections the same year. The proposed minimum income guarantee scheme, which sought to guarantee ₹72,000 a year to the country’s poorest 20% of households, was a major poll plank for the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections.
When the Election Commission’s lawyer Anjana Gosain said during Wednesday’s hearing that the poll panel has already issued guidelines in relation to “corrupt practices” and sent the same to the political parties, the high court shot back.
“Why are you shying away from taking action? Start taking action. Don’t just issue notices and letters. Let us see what action you are taking. Proposed actions also, you can state…. Powers are not ornaments. Use your powers for the welfare of the public at large, this is what the petitioner is saying. Take action, not (just) issue notices and orders,” the bench said.
To be sure, the high court did not get into the details of the arguments presented by the petitioner during Wednesday’s hearing. Apart from the EC, the high court also issued notices to the Congress and the TDP, the two parties who promised cash transfers in their election manifestoes in the past.
Senior counsel Soumya Chakraborty, appearing for the petitioners, said that “when cash is offered, not against any labour, it is not supported by any policy.”
“In Covid-19, funds were put in accounts of people. (But) it was an extraordinary situation. If political parties start the trend of giving money not against any work, our industries, agriculture will finish,” he submitted.
The plea contended that “note for vote” promises violate Section 123 of the Representation of Peoples Act which deals with corrupt practices and bribery.