The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it cannot prevent political parties from making promises, adding that there has to be debate and discussion on freebies. The apex court allowed time for all parties to submit suggestions, and arguments to an expert panel for defining freebies and posted the matter for hearing on August 22.
"We cannot prevent political parties from making promises. The question is what are right promises and what qualifies as a freebie. Can we describe the promise of free education, some essential units of power as freebies? There has to be debate and discussion," Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said.
The CJI said that promises alone were not the basis for parties winning elections. "Can access to drinking water and electricity be called a freebie? There are schemes are MNREGA that give the dignity of living. I don't think promises alone are not the basis of parties being elected solely. Some make promises and even then they are not elected," the CJI added.
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) told the Supreme Court that targeting and regulating electoral speeches will amount to nothing more than a wild-goose chase if the concerns are over fiscal deficit due to the promises of freebies made during polls by political parties.
The party said curb on electoral speeches, without legislative backing, would be violative of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression and the proposed committee may not encompass the regulation, let alone prohibition, of certain types of electoral speech.
The top court was hearing a plea by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking to prevent political parties from promising freebies to the electorate before elections. Political parties like Aam Aadmi Party and DMK has sought to intervene.