As TN parties mull doles, SC & EC views on fair play overlooked

Doles and freebies are expected to figure in the manifestoes of two major political parties in Tamil Nadu with the precursor being the monthly financial assistance to housewives announced by the AIADMK, DMK and MNM.

Freebies promised by political parties shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree, observed the Supreme Court in 2013.

The apex court had observed while deciding the case of S.Subramaniam Balaji vs Government of Tamil Nadu and others in 2013.

The Election Commission of India too told the apex court that the promise of freebies at government cost disturbs the level playing field and vitiates the electoral process.

Late Balaji had fought against the freebie schemes of the both parties — DMK and AIADMK governments — going up to the Supreme Court.

In its judgement, the apex court said: “Although, the law is obvious that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be construed as ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of the RP Act (Representation of the People Act), the reality cannot be ruled out that the distribution of freebies of any kind, undoubtedly, influences all people. It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree.”

Balaji had filed the case against the distribution of free colour television sets by the DMK to the people as part of its pre-election promise in 2006.

Later the AIADMK then under late J. Jayalalithaa promised mixers, grinders, fans and laptops and other freebies during the 2011 Assembly polls.

Cheap rice, free TV, free power, free stove, cash dole promises by political parties is nothing but “bribery”, Balaji had contended.

A government cannot enrich private individuals out of consolidated funds, Balaji had said.

The apex court had said 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 and Candidates.

Later, the Election Commission after meeting the political parties on the subject said they 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.

“In the interest of transparency, level playing field and credibility of promises, it is expected that manifestos also reflect the rationale for the promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for it. Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled,” the poll body said.