Holding that such promises by political parties under present law does not amount to corrupt practice, the apex court, said that election manifesto released by parties can be included in the Model Code of Conduct
Freebies promised by political parties in their election manifestos to lure voters shake the roots of free and fair polls, the Supreme Court observed today as it directed the Election Commission to frame guidelines for regulating contents of manifestos.
Holding that such promises by political parties under present law does not amount to corrupt practice, the apex court, however, said that election manifesto released by parties can be included in the Model Code of Conduct.
“Although, the law is obvious that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be construed as ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of Representation of People's (RP) Act, the reality cannot be ruled out that distribution of freebies of any kind, undoubtedly, influences all people. It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree,” a bench of justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi said.
“Considering that there is no enactment that directly governs the contents of the election manifesto, we hereby direct the Election Commission to frame guidelines for the same in consultation with all the recognized political parties,” the bench said adding “a separate head for guidelines for election manifesto released by a political party can also be included in the Model Code of Conduct for the Guidance of Political Parties & Candidates”.
The judgement can have wide ramifications and can put a curb on political parties for promising different types of freebies like distributing laptops, TVs, grinders and mixers, electric fans, four gram gold thali and free foodgrain for wooing the voters. The election manifesto of parties will also come under the scrutiny of the Commission.
The bench said though the election manifesto is published before the code of conduct comes into force, the Commission can make an exception by bringing it within code of conduct.
“We are mindful of the fact that generally political parties release their election manifesto before the announcement of election date, in that scenario, strictly speaking, the Election Commission will not have the authority to regulate any act which is done before the announcement of the date.
“Nevertheless, an exception can be made in this regard as the purpose of election manifesto is directly associated with the election process,” the bench said.
The Food Security programme will be the biggest in the world with the government spending an estimated Rs125,000 crore annually on supply of about 62 million tonnes of rice, wheat and coarse cereals to 67% of the population
President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday signed the ordinance on Food Security to give the nation’s two-third population the right to get 5 kg of foodgrain every month at highly subsidised rates of Re1-Rs3 per kg.
Mukherjee cleared the ordinance, which was received by the President's Secretariat last night, ending speculation that he may not be in a rush to give his nod in the wake of strong reservations over its present form expressed by BJP, Left and some other major parties.
The Food Security programme will be the biggest in the world with the government spending an estimated Rs125,000 crore annually on supply of about 62 million tonnes of rice, wheat and coarse cereals to 67% of the population.
The Cabinet, which had last month deferred a decision on the issue following differences within, had approved promulgation of an ordinance to implement the Food Security Bill on Wednesday.
The Ordinance comes just weeks before the scheduled Monsoon session of Parliament and political parties demanding that the Food Security Bill be debated in both Houses before being passed.
Left parties attacked the government for taking the ordinance route saying the UPA-II has shown contempt for Parliament while BJP termed it an “election gimmick” saying the Congress was running away from a debate in the House.
Samajwadi Party, a key outside supporter of UPA, also sharply opposed promulgation of the ordinance saying it was undemocratic and the programme would derail the food economy.
The Ordinance will have to be approved by both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha within six months of promulgation.
The measure will guarantee 5 kg of rice, wheat and coarse cereals per month per person at a fixed price of Rs3, Rs2 and Re1, respectively,
However, about 2.43 crore poorest of the poor families covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme under the PDS (Public Distribution System) would continue to get 35 kg of foodgrain per family per month but with legal entitlement.