SC seeks response from MP, Rajasthan on PIL against freebies before polls

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Centre, the Election Commission, and the RBI on a public interest litigation (PIL) alleging that the two states are distributing freebies to voters ahead of the assembly elections. The PIL, filed by Bhattulal Jain, also claimed that the state governments are misusing public funds for their political gains.

The bench, comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Mishra, asked the respondents to file their replies within four weeks. The bench also expressed its reluctance to interfere in the promises made by the governments before the elections and asked how it could regulate them. “Before elections, all kinds of promises are made and we cannot control it,” the bench said.

The bench also questioned why the PIL was not filed in the High Court and asked the petitioner’s counsel to remove the name of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh from the list of respondents and replace it with the name of the state government, which will be represented by the Chief Secretary.

The petitioner’s counsel, Varinder Kumar Sharma, argued that nothing can be more cruel than the government distributing cash before the elections and that this is happening every time and the burden ultimately falls on the taxpayers. He also said that the PIL pertains to providing free facilities in two states.

The PIL cited various schemes announced by the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan governments, such as free smartphones to women, free laptops to students, free electricity to farmers, free water supply to households, etc. The PIL alleged that these schemes are in violation of the model code of conduct and are aimed at influencing the voters.

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The PIL also referred to a similar petition filed by Ashwini Upadhyay in August 2022, which was referred to a three-judge bench. The petition sought directions to declare that any promise of loan waiver or freebies to any section of society by any political party is against the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.