Freebies, welfare schemes must be differentiated, says Supreme Court

Continuing with its hearing on the freebies matter, the on Wednesday observed that the difference between what can be termed freebies or welfare measures needs to be determined. The matter will be heard again on August 21.

The court said that the term freebies should not be confused with welfare measures.

A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana, Justices Hima Kohli and JK Maheshwari heard the plea seeking directions to political parties to not promise and distribute freebies to voters.

The court said the issue was getting complicated. Political parties such as AAP, Congress and the DMK had filed their replies in the matter.

The DMK had submitted that the petitioner in the case was trying to convert India from a socialist to a capitalist state. It also objected to the court’s proposal to constitute a committee to examine the issue. It said that the plea, if given effect, would defeat the objectives of the Directive Principles of State Policy.

Meanwhile, the court asked what can be termed a freebie.

“Can we term the promise of free education as a freebie? Can we say subsidies for electricity or free drinking water are freebies? Can free electronics and vehicles be termed welfare measures? You (parties) give your submissions, and after a debate, we will decide,” CJI Ramana said.

He also said that just because a political party makes promises before the elections does not mean the party would win the elections solely based on these promises.

Giving the example of MGNREGA, he said the scheme allowed the people to live with dignity.

The court asked the parties to not use this matter for publicity and file their submissions on Saturday. This will allow the matter to be heard on Monday.

“Ensure all parties are supplied with copies of the application,” the court said.

The court — in its last hearing on August 11 — had said legislation barring political parties from offering voters freebies is not advisable. It added that de-registering them for making such promises would be “anti-democratic.”

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