Promise of pre-poll freebies is corrupt practice under the Representation of the People Act, SC told
The Supreme Court was told that the promise of pre-election freebies by political parties is a corrupt practice under the Representation of the People Act.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday was told that the promise of pre-election freebies by political parties is a corrupt practice and bribe under the Representation of the People Act.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud was also informed that per-election freebies is equivalent to bribe and is a ground for declaring an election to be void.
Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, appearing for the petitioner, said, "Under section 123 of the RP Act, 1951 'bribery' is deemed to be corrupt practice for the purpose of the Act. The expression 'bribery' has been defined to mean any gift, offer or promise by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent of any gratification with the object of inducing an elector as a reward to his candidature... Thus, the promises made by the political party is nothing but a bribe within the meaning of Section 123 (1)(A) of the RP Act, 1951, which is a corrupt practice, and if other conditions mentioned in the said section are fulfilled, is a ground for declaring the election to be void under Section 100(1)(b) of the Act."
Hansaria, arguing for petitioner on pleas including the one filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay opposing promises of such handouts by the parties during polls, told the bench that two-judge bench 2013 verdict of the top court in the matter of S Subramaniam Balaji vs Government of Tamil Nadu and others required reconsideration.
The apex court in that judgement had noted that after examining and considering the parameters laid in section 123 of the Representation of People Act(RPA), it arrived at a conclusion that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be read into section 123 for declaring it to be a corrupt practice.
The hearing in the matter remained inconclusive and will continue Thursday.
The apex court had earlier said that the issue of freebies promised by the political parties during election campaigns requires extensive debate, and referred the case to a three-judges bench.
The top court is seized of a batch of pleas against freebies promised by political parties.
One of the pleas filed by Upadhyay sought direction to seize election symbols and deregister political parties that promised to distribute irrational freebies from public funds.
The plea had claimed that political parties arbitrarily promises or irrational freebies for wrongful gain and to lure voters in their favour is analogous to bribery and undue influences. It claimed that promise or distribution of irrational freebies from public funds before elections could unduly influence the voters, shake the roots of a free and fair election, and disturb the level playing field, besides vitiating the purity of the election process.
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