The Supreme Court stated on Friday that the practice of political parties pledging pre-election giveaways to be listed before a three-judge bench is done with taxpayer funds and may lead to “imminent bankruptcy” for the State.
The top court stated that although all promises cannot be equated with freebies as they relate to welfare schemes or measures for the public good, fiscal responsibility cannot be dispensed with under the guise of electoral promises. It noted that issues raised before it require an “extensive” hearing. It said that these programs are not just a duty of the welfare state but also a component of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
“Freebies may create a situation wherein the State Government cannot provide basic amenities due to lack of funds, and the State is pushed towards imminent bankruptcy. In the same breath, we should remember that such freebies are extended utilizing taxpayers’ money only for increasing the party’s popularity and electoral prospects,” a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said.
The court order on Justice Ramana’s last day in office comes against the freebies versus welfare scheme debate that has recently sparked a political slugfest.
The Supreme Court said there could be no denying that in an electoral democracy, the true power ultimately lies with the electorate.
“The electorate selects the winning party or candidate and assesses that party or candidate’s performance after the legislative term in the subsequent round of elections.
The bench, which also included Justices Hima Kohli and C T Ravikumar, stated: “This Court has traditionally kept its hand when presented with concerns relating to a policy or fiscal affairs concerning the State, as the same falls outside the range of the Court’s authority.”
Before passing any specific decisions, the top court stated that the problems brought up by the parties require an “extended hearing.”
It noted there are specific preliminary issues that may be needed to be deliberated upon in these petitions. The problems included the scope of judicial intervention concerning the reliefs sought in these pleas, whether this court can pass any enforceable order in these writ petitions and whether the court’s appointment of a commission/expert body would serve any purpose.
According to the bench, it was claimed that the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in the case of S Subramaniam Balaji v. The Government of Tamil Nadu and Others was handed down by a two-judge panel, which needed to be reconsidered.
The top court observed that all political parties supported freebies when hearing the case on August 23, and as a result, a legal endeavor was made to resolve it.
“All political parties, including the BJP, are on the same side of this issue, in my opinion. Everyone desires free things. We made an effort because of it. “The bench had been watching.