Supreme Court will convene a freebies expert group and criticises the Election Commission's negligence

  • Aug. 4, 2022, 12:15 p.m.

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to set up an expert group with representation from Niti Aayog, Finance Commission, Election Commission, RBI and political parties to study the impact of freebies on tax payers and economy, and recommend measures to regulate it.
After listening to myriad suggestions, including leaving it to Parliament to debate and pass appropriate legislation, a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli said, "We must think about the taxpayers and the national economy. To what extent can the courts regulate given its constitutional limitations?"
The bench said, "Let an independent expert body study the pressing issue, interact with stakeholders and the general public and give a report containing concrete suggestions. We can send the suggestions to the government and ask it to take necessary action."
The SC asked solicitor general Tushar Mehta, EC counsel Amit Sharma, petitioner’s counsel Vikas Singh and Vijay Hansaria as well as senior advocate Kapil Sibal to give their suggestions on what should be the composition of the expert panel and the contour of scrutiny of freebies within a week. It posted the matter for hearing on August 11.

Invited by the court to give his independent suggestion, Sibal said, "Election Commission is the most favoured institution and should be kept out of the issue of freebies, which is of political and economic in nature. After a thorough debate, Parliament could decide the appropriate remedial measures."
The CJI-led bench disagreed. "Do you seriously think Parliament will debate regulating freebies? Which political party will debate this issue? No political party would agree for curbs on freebies ahead of polls. Each of them wants it."
Mehta said the country’s economy is heading towards disaster because of the mindless announcement of freebies by opportunists. He suggested that SC could ask the EC to revisit the issue to propose remedial measures for the court's scrutiny. But, EC counsel Amit Sharma said EC’s hands were tied because of a 2013 judgment.
CJI Ramana said, "We are aware of the Subramaniam Balaji judgment and if needed we will reconsider it. But, if EC had taken timely remedial steps, this problem would not have arisen."
Petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay’s counsel suggested drafting of a model code of conduct by the EC as well as examination of the issue by financial experts. The bench said, "model code of conduct comes into force only a few days ahead of the elections. But, political parties indulge in it for four years. There is nothing wrong in giving a helping hand to the poor and marginalised. But to what extent?"

Author : Rajdhani Delhi Representative

Rajdhani delhi representative

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