The Supreme Court referred to a three-judge Bench a series of petitions seeking a judicial direction that political parties who make “wild” promises of largesse should also reveal in their poll manifestos where they will get the money to pay for them.
- The reference is a shift from the court’s own stand in the S. Subramaniam Balaji vs Tamil Nadu judgment of 2013.
GS II: Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Balaji case judgment:
- What triggered the Balaji case?
- Why is the Court’s move to review the Balaji judgment significant?
About Balaji case judgment:
- In the Balaji case judgment, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court had held that making promises in election manifestos do not amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of the Representation of People Act (RP).
- However, the Supreme Court is now worried that freebies promised by political parties to win elections could bleed the public exchequer dry.
- The Court said that parties who form the government riding the wave created by their pre-poll promises of “free gifts” are bleeding the State finances dry by actually trying to fulfil their outlandish promises using public money.
- The Supreme Court has therefore decided to revisit the Balaji verdict.
What triggered the Balaji case?
- The course of events started in 2006, during the run-up to the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections.
- The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) released its election manifesto announcing a scheme of free distribution of colour television sets (CTVs) to “each and every household” which did not have one if the party was voted to power.
- The party justified that the TV would “provide recreation and general knowledge to household women, more particularly, those living in the rural areas”.
- The party swept to power in the polls and decided to implement its scheme and portioned off ₹750 crore from the budget for the project.
- The government finally distributed 30,000 TV sets across the State.
- In 2011, rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and its alliance also announced its election manifesto with free gifts to “equalise” the gifts offered by the DMK.
- AIADMK promised grinders, mixies, electric fans, laptop computers, four gram gold thalis, a cheque of ₹50,000 for women’s marriage, green houses, 20 kg of rice to ration card holders (even to those above the poverty line) and free cattle and sheep.
- Mr. Balaji, a resident of Tamil Nadu, challenged the schemes introduced by the parties in the Madras High Court.
- He said the expenditure to be incurred by the State from the exchequer was “unauthorised, impermissible and ultra vires the constitutional mandates”.
- The High Court dismissed his case, following which he had moved the apex court.
Why is the Court’s move to review the Balaji judgment significant?
- In its order, the court foresees that “freebies may create a situation wherein the State government cannot provide basic amenities due to lack of funds and the State is pushed towards imminent bankruptcy”.
- The court said it wants a transparent debate before the three-judge Bench on whether an “enforceable” judicial order can stop political parties from promising and distributing ‘irrational freebies’.
- The case is unique as the Supreme Court is exploring whether judicial parameters can be set on a purely political act of promising freebies.
-Source: The Hindu