Political parties should be prohibited or prevented from giving election promises, which are capable of adding burden on the public exchequer, the Madras High Court observed in an order passed on 31st March 2021.
The bench comprising Justices N. Kirubakaran and B. Pugalendhi directed the Election Commission of India and other Government authorities to respond to the following questions:
- Whether the Central Government has taken any steps to bring legislation covering the issue of political manifestos, especially freebies promised in the election manifestos and governing the political parties as per the Judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of S.Subramaniam Balaji v. State of Tamil Nadu and Others reported in (2013) 9 SCC 659?
- In how many elections the Election Commission has vetted the election manifestos of the political parties as per the dictum of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of S.Subramaniam Balaji v. State of Tamil Nadu?
- If so, which are all the political parties which have submitted their election manifestos for vetting during elections, after 2014?
- What are the actions taken against those political parties, which have not followed the dictum of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to tender the manifestos for vetting before the Election Commission?
- In how many manifestos of the political parties, the Election Commission has made objections regarding the statements or promises made?
- Whether based on the objections such disputed or controversial promises have been deleted by political parties?
- If so which party’s manifestos have been objected and have been deleted?
- Why not political parties be liable to pay at least 10% of the money involved for implementation of election promises made by them while implementing the same after they come to power to infuse a sense of responsibility to the political parties?
- Why not the Respondents sensitize the political parties not to make any unreasonable and unfair promises, which, if implemented would drain the public exchequer unnecessarily /unreasonably?
- Why not the Respondents prohibit the political parties from giving social security schemes which are capable of shattering work culture and making people lazy?
- Whether the political parties give in the manifestos itself about the political promises and provision for resources available, in case if they come to power along with experts opinion?
- Why not the Respondents direct the political parties to make the political promise, especially, with regard to the freebies in accordance with the resources of the State?
- Why not the Respondents monitor and verify as to whether the election promises are complied with during the tenure of the political party, which is elected to form the Government?
- Why not the Respondents prohibit the political parties from making any promises, which cannot be implemented by the State Government, as they are beyond the powers of state Governments. i.e., waiver of loans given by the nationalized bank, etc.,?
- Whether the Respondents have got details about the political promises, which have been implemented by the political parties, when they came to power at least in the past 4 elections to Legislative Assemblies and Parliament elections?
- How much was spent by the respective Government, especially, Tamil Nadu to translate the election promises into reality by giving the details thereof (from 2001 election onwards)?
- Why not election commission of India de-recognize those election parties, who fail to implement their political promises based on which the voters are lured and the parties are elected to form the Government?
- When the political parties ascend the throne by promises which were believed by the voters and voted, and the promises are foundation of the Government, why not the respondents make election promises as enforceable?
- When will the Union Government bring an amendment of Section 123 of Representation of People’s Act 1952, to include “political parties” which could be charged for “corrupt practices”?
- Why not the constituency with next highest population of Scheduled Caste (SC) population be made as reserved constituency by rotation without decreasing the constituency meant for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes?
The court made many interesting observations, some of which are reproduced below, while considering a PIL filed by a person seeking to convert “Vasudevanallur Legislative Assembly constituency”, which is a reserved constituency, as a general constituency to enable all the sections of people to contest the election.
It is raining freebies for Tamil Nadu Assembly elections
Time is not too far away to hear the aforesaid promises from competing political parties. It is raining freebies for Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. Each party tries to undo each other in terms of populist promises. If one party promises monthly assistance of Rs.1,000/- to women households heads, there is a counter freebies of Rs.1,500/-. It goes on. The result is people started having a mind set that they could make a living out of freebies. A trend has been created that whoever avails loan from banks, does not repay the loan, expecting waiver of loans during election. In this way, people themselves get corrupted by political parties. The way in which the political parties throw their promises, which are unreasonable and unworkable are really unwanted. Unfortunately, freebies are not connected with job creation, development, or agriculture. Voters are lured to cast votes in their favour by these magical promises. Once in 5 years, this tamasha is being continued for decades together. Promises have always remained as promises. Most of them except freebies are not implemented.
Election promises made by the political parties are aimed at clinching power.
Every political party is bound to make promises to voters giving their social policies and plans for improving the standard of living of the people by providing clean governance, infrastructure, especially, providing basic amenities like, water, transportation and health, which are expected in every democracy. However, the election promises made by the political parties are aimed at clinching power.
Migrant workers would be owners of the properties in due course and the sons of the soil will become workers working under them
It is not as if everyone in Tamil Nadu have become an entrepreneur or persons with resources and if we go into details, most of the persons including wealthy are expecting freebies. Engineering Graduates, M.Phil, M.B.A. Degreeholders are applying for sweeper posts and O.A. posts. Nobody wants to do manual job. It is reported in media that people who go for 100 days work, (MNREGA), which has been brought by the Government to give work for people, simply chit chatting under trees without doing the work. The way in which things are happening today, one would not be surprised to see that migrant workers would be owners of the properties in due course and the sons of the soil will become workers working under them and it may be the only achievement, probably, the political parties have attained through election promises by providing freebies for the past 20 years.
All the political parties, are expected to behave reasonably or offer political promise
Though political parties cry for rights, they never bother educating about the corresponding duties and it is also one of the dangerous trends to be addressed. All the political parties, are expected to behave reasonably or offer political promises, which are helpful for overall development of the society instead of having an adverse effect on the people.
Do people who sell their votes, have any moral right to question their leaders?
Practically, people are floated with attractive promises and they are convinced by these promises to vote a particular party to form Government and many of the promises make big dent on the public exchequer. If money spent for freebies are utilized constructively by creating job opportunities, by building infrastructure, like, dams, lakes, providing better facilities and incentives to the agriculture, which has become an orphan in our country as most of the people have quit agriculture as cultivation does not provide a secured income, definitely, there will be social upliftment and progress of the State. The political parties should be prohibited or prevented from giving election promises, which are capable of adding burden on the public exchequer, especially, the State is facing financial crunch. Otherwise, for the sake of finance, the State has to increase the number of liquor shops..It is stated that every candidate has to shell out about Rs.20 crores in the election to an assembly constituency, as many of the people have become corrupt by selling their votes for one or a few thousands, Briyani and Quarter bottle. It is the stark reality. If that is so, how could the people expect good leaders? Do people who sell their votes, have any moral right to question their leaders? This Court could only recall the words of Joseph de Maistre, “In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve”
Ensure that the provisions are made to reserve seats on rotation basis
However, the Government and the Election Commission of India should also ensure that not only the required number of Scheduled caste(SC) candidates are elected either in the State Assembly or to the Parliament alone, also to ensure that the provisions are made to reserve seats on rotation basis. Otherwise, as rightly pointed out by the Petitioner, keeping one constituency as reserved for so many years would definitely affect the rights of the other Sections. By having rotation, the scheduled caste(SC) candidates in other constituencies will also have the scheduled caste(SC) representatives in legislature. If they are elected from other constituencies on rotation basis, keeping one constituency as reserved constituency for a long time would be dispensed. The other constituencies even with lesser Scheduled caste(SC) population could be made as reserved constituency. Though while rotating the constituency, the same number of representatives could be maintained so that the rights of the Scheduled caste population are not violated, it should be the duty of the Central Government as well as Election Commission to ensure that whenever delimitation exercise is done, efforts are to be taken to de-reserve the existing constituencies which are reserved constituencies for a long time and make the other constituencies which have got next highest Scheduled Caste population. If this kind of rotation is followed, definitely, there will not be any complaints of violation by any other section of people.
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