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Whether court can impose any restrictions on the political parties w.r.t. the promises made by them in pre-election activities?

Court Name: SUPREME COURT OF INDIA 

Judgement Name: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay versus Union of India And Anr. 

Judgement Date: AUGUST 26, 2022

Judge: J. HIMA KOHLI AND J. C.T. RAVIKUMAR

 

Facts of the case

The case here relates to the pre-election promises made by the political parties as a part of their election manifesto or during election speeches. There are two set of petitions herein that the first one relates to the pre-election freebies which may influence voters at time of election and the second one relates to the grant of benefits of the government which doesn’t relate to any kind of welfare activities or any developmental activity but are just a way through to get more votes from the citizens. The solicitor general has replied saying that the Union has limited role when it comes to the political parties pre-election activities and so suggested constituting a commission to look into this matter. The Election Commission of India has always relied on its footing that they have limited scope on this matter i.e., the promises made by the political parties.

Various political parties have filed for challenging the very maintainability of the petitions in the court. Stating that these contentions in the petition relates to policy and fiscal decisions of the state and so are outside the scope of the court.

 

Contentions of the petitioner

  1. The main contention is that these pre-election promises have a large scale impact on the economy of the state. Thus, such promises must not be made.
  2. These are made just to win the elections and without any assessment of the financial implications on the state.

 

Contentions of the respondent

  1. The political party claims that the issues that are in the writ are of policy and fiscal nature and are outside the purview of the court. These decisions are taken by the state. 
  2. They further submit that no government or court can prescribe or curtail the rights of political parties for making promises or delivering speeches as the political parties who run the government are very aware of the problems of the society. 

 

Observations of the court

The court has paid heed to all the parties involved in the following case and have taken views of the petitions from various angles.

    • The court observes that in electoral democracy the power ultimately lies with the electorate. And it is the one that decides as to which party must come to power. And decides the performance of the party at the end of the legislative term. 
    • The court has highlighted the points raised by the intervenors about the promises that it must not always be equated to the freebies as they relate to the welfare of the states, as these are the part of Directive Principles of State Policy. The court has clearly said that ‘freebie’ should not be confused with genuine welfare measures.
    • The court prefers for an extensive hearing before passing any order. And the court after framing certain issues referred the matter to 3- judge bench as the judgement in S. Subramaniam Balaji was delivered by a two-judge bench.   
    • The courts have always been at back footing and generally didn’t intervene with the policy and fiscal matters of the state as the same falls outside the scope of the court.
    • The court is of the opinion that it might be appropriate to constitute an expert body for studying the matter and provide the necessary answers. And also has sought the suggestions from the parties for composing such a body.
  • The court had observed the decision held in S. Subramaniam Balaji v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2013) 9 SCC 659, that the pre-election promises do not fall within the purview of corrupt practices and issued the direction w.r.t this to election commission of India for framing certain guidelines.

 

Decision passed

The apex court after looking into the complexities of the issues involved in the following case directed listing the petition before a three-bench. As the prayer had a clause to overrule the judgement rendered by a two-Judge Bench of this court. 

 

Opinion

The apex court has understood the seriousness of the issue. It has time and again repeated the same thing that courts can not interfere in these situations as these states matter. But then again it had given great guidance to form a committee that could help understand the situation in a better condition and then to pass a judgement. It had also asked parties’ opinions on the same which is a fair decision in my opinion.

 

Written by: Anisha Dad

College: Balaji Law College, Pune (3rd year of 3 year LLB.)

 

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