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Can universal healthcare, access to drinking water be treated as ‘freebies’, asks Supreme Court

CJI N V Ramana observed, "We cannot prevent political parties from making promises. The question is what qualifies as a freebie."

The Supreme Court has listed the matter for further hearing on next Monday. (Express)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asserted that it cannot prevent political parties from making promises and that it was essential to define what is a “freebie”.

“Can universal healthcare, access to drinking water, and access to consumer electronics be treated as freebies?” asked a bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, the Bar and Bench reported. The apex court was hearing a petition by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Upadhyay seeking to prevent political parties from promising freebies to the electorate before elections.

The CJI noted that one of the suggestions from the respondents stated that political parties cannot be prevented from making promises to the electorate. “I don’t think promises alone are the basis of parties being elected. Some make promises and even then they are not elected,” the CJI said.

The court asked all parties concerned to submit their opinions and listed the matter for further hearing next Monday (August 22). The CJI added that it must be ensured that all parties to the case are supplied with copies of the applications.

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Earlier, the CJI had acknowledged that the impact of freebies promised by political parties on the country’s fiscal health was “a serious issue” but said he was not in favour of derecognising any party over it because that would be “anti-democratic”.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has sought to oppose the ban on freebies. It told the court “schemes for socioeconomic welfare of deserving and disadvantaged masses cannot be described as ‘freebies’”.

On Wednesday, the CJI observed, “We cannot prevent political parties from making promises. The question is 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.”

— with inputs from Bar and Bench

First published on: 17-08-2022 at 01:42:24 pm
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