Courts Update Delhi High Court issues notice to Centre, ECI on...

Delhi High Court issues notice to Centre, ECI on a plea seeking to declare offer of cash transfer in election manifestos as a corrupt practice

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New Delhi Sept 15(ILNS): The Delhi High Court, today, has sought the response from the Centre, the Election Commission of India, on a plea seeking directions to declare offer of cash transfer in election manifestos by political parties as a corrupt electoral practice.

The Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued a notice in a plea by two lawyers, wherein it is alleged that the practice of offering freebies as part of electoral promises could sway away from a vast majority of electorates. 

Senior Counsel Soumya Chakraborty, representing petitioners, informed the Bench that a similar petition was moved before the Delhi High Court in the year 2019; which was dismissed with liberty granted to the petitioners to take up the issue after the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections were held.

Election Commission of India was represented by Advocate Anjana Gossain, who informed the Bench that the ECI has already issued guidelines, governing corrupt practices adopted during elections by political parties, in furtherance of directions given by the Apex Court. 

The Bench raised a query as to whether ECI is vested with the power to take actions against a political party that is found to have followed corrupt practices during elections; however, the counsel sought time to seek instructions on the same.

The Bench orally asked the ECI as to why no action has been taken to prevent such practices, despite there being a categorical direction by the Apex Court. “Powers are not ornaments. You (ECI) use your powers for the welfare of the public at large.. Start taking action. Don’t issue orders and directions,” remarked the Bench.

The Bench slated the matter for September 24, 2021

The petition has been filed by Parashar Narayan Sharma and Capt. Gurvinder Singh, thorough Advocate Amardeep Maini.

The plea points out instances from the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections whereby political parties offered illegal gratification as part of their election manifestos. It is claimed that the Indian National Congress promised to pay Rs. 72,000 per annum to five crore poor families under its proposed scheme named ‘Nyuntam Aay Yojana’ (NYAY). Similarly, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) promised to pay Rs. 2 lakhs per annum to poor families in the State of Andhra Pradesh. 

Calling the said promises as ‘Note for Vote’, the plea alleges that if such practices are not monitored, it could strike a ‘death blow to the very foundation of the largest democracy of the world’.

Relying on the decision of the Apex Court in the case of “S. Subramaniam Balaji vs. State of Tami Nadu”, wherein the Court directed the ECI to frame guidelines governing the contents of election manifestos of political parties, the plea highlights that a representation was made before the ECI. However, no action was taken upon the representation.

In light of the above, the plea seeks a declaration that election manifestos promising transfer of cash in pursuance of any scheme which would provide an opportunity to earn in exchange for labor or any kind of productivity being unknown to the Directive Principles of State Policy is ultra vires of the Constitution.

The plea reads thus: “If freebies, particularly wanton cash benefits, are allowed to be offered as part  of electoral promises, the vast majority of the electorate would be swayed away from the dignity of labor and consequently, the economy, industry, and agriculture of the nation would be destroyed completely.”

“Political parties should avoid making those promises which are likely to vitiate the purity of the election process or exert undue influence on the voters in exercising their franchise,” the plea adds further./ILNS/BG/KR/SNG

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