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Supreme Court: It's 'anti-democratic' to de-register political parties for distributing freebies


CHENNAI: The Supreme Court on Thursday described as 'anti-democratic' to look into the aspect of de-registering political parties for distributing freebies.

"I don't want to look into the aspect of de-registration. That's an anti-democratic thing. We are a democracy after all," the Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana said.

The court was dealing with a plea seeking directions to the Election Commission of India to not permit political parties to promise freebies during election campaigns.

"Question is, now to what extent we can interfere or go into the issue? The reason is there is ECI, which is an independent body and the political parties are there. Everyone is there. It's the wisdom of all those people. It's definitely an issue of concern & financial discipline has to be there but in a country like India where poverty is there we can't ignore that issue," CJI was quoted as saying by the Live Law.

The ECI earlier declined to be part of a panel mooted by the SC to examine regulatory measures on freebies announced by political parties ahead of elections.

The ECI pointed out that in the judgment in Subramaniam Balaji vs State of Tamil Nadu (2013) 9 SCC 659, the Supreme Court had held that promises made by political parties in election manifesto cannot be construed as a "corrupt practice" under the Representation of Peoples Act 195. The poll panel further said that as per the direction in the Subramaniam Balaji case, it has framed guidelines in the Model Code of Conduct requiring the political parties to explain the rationale for the promises made and the ways and means to finance them.

On July 26 the court termed freebies a "serious issue" and asked the Centre to take a clear stand on it.