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Poll freebies: Supreme Court dismisses plea, says it’s not a PIL, warns of costs

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The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear a petition seeking a direction to register FIRs against political parties, which indulge in distribution of freebies to the voters, so as to induce them to vote for them, saying it’s a publicity interest litigation. 

The bench led by CJI N.V. Ramana came down heavily on the petitioner counsel who was unable to state reasons to file the present petition. “We three feel it’s a motivated and selective to destroy the other group. It’s a personal agenda. Who are you?” asked the CJI. 

The petitioner counsel replied he is Vice President of Hindu Sena, Surjit Singh Yadav, and he was aggrieved by the offer and promises made by the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the ongoing assembly elections in five states.

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Justice A.S. Bopanna pointed out that present plea is selective in nature as only particulars of one party is given and it cannot be treated as a PIL. Following which, the petitioner sought liberty to withdraw and to file again. The CJI declined to accept that request and dismissed the PIL and warned of imposing cost on the petitioner. Justice Hima Kohli was also part of the bench. 

Yesterday, Advocate Barun Kumar Sinha mentioned the matter before the three-judge CJI bench for early hearing. 

The plea had challenged the offer and promises made by political parties during Assembly elections of freebies to the voters and public, “if their government is voted in power”.

“Disqualify all the members set up by the Indian National Congress, Samajwadi Party in the State of Uttar Pradesh and the candidates set up by the Aam Aadmi Party in the State of Punjab in the Assembly Election, 2022,” the plea stated.

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It further sought direction to register FIRs against the Congress, SP, BSP and AAP for inducing the voters by making offers of gifts, goods, money from the public exchequer, if they are voted to form the state government in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur respectively for an offence committed under Section 123(1)(A) of Representation of People Act, 1951.

The plea also said that candidates, who are found offering freebies, may be declared disqualified from contesting the election in that state as this is important for free and fair voting of the candidates of elector’s choice.

The petition further contended that the Election Commission should be directed to evolve a mechanism at the time of filing nominations, declarations to the effect that their political parties on whose symbol, they are contesting elections, have not made any offer and promise of freebies at the cost of public money if they are voted to power.

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“If such declarations by the candidates are found wrong, such candidates must be declared disqualified from contesting the election and if elected, such election may be declared void,” the plea urged.

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