The Electoral Commission (EC) told the Supreme Court that the giving of gifts before or after elections is a political decision of a political party and cannot regulate state policies and decisions made by the parties.
In an affidavit, the EC said: “Giving/distributing gifts before or after elections is a political decision of the party concerned and whether these policies are financially viable or have a negative effect on the economic health of the state is a matter.it must be considered and decided by the voters of the state.
“The Electoral Commission cannot regulate state policies and decisions that may be made by the winning party when it forms government. Such action without enabling provisions in law would be an excess of powers.”
The EC has clarified that it does not have the power to deregister a political party, except on three grounds, which were set out by the highest court in Indian National Congress Vs Institute of Social Welfare and others (2002) .
The grounds are — registration obtained for fraud and forgery, party having ceased to have faith and allegiance to the Constitution, and any other similar grounds.
The EC added that it has also made recommendations to the Ministry of Justice to enable it to exercise the power to deregister a political party and to issue the necessary ordinances regulating the registration and deregistration of political parties.
The affidavit added: “Prohibiting political parties from pledging/distributing gifts of public funds prior to elections…may result in a situation where parties will lose recognition before they have even displayed their electoral performance in elections.”
The EC response filed the affidavit in response to a PIL filed by Attorney Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
The PIL asserted that the promise or distribution of irrational gifts from public funds before the polls undermines the roots of a free and fair election and vitiates the purity of the electoral process.
The plea sought an instruction from the highest court to declare that the promise of irrational gifts, which are not for public purposes, from public funds before the election violates sections 14, 162, 266(3) and 282 of the Constitution.
On January 25, the Supreme Court had issued a notice of plea.
The plea argued that a condition should be imposed on the political party that it would not promise or distribute irrational gifts from the public fund. The EC replied that this “could lead to a situation where political parties would lose their recognition even before displaying their electoral performance”.
He also argued that promises by political parties to win over voters to their favor are analogous to corruption and undue influence.
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