CHENNAI: As the debate over political parties promising various offers during election campaigns is raging across the country yet again after the Supreme Court took up a petition against it, DT Next spoke to legal experts from both sides.
“The State has a duty under the directive principles of the State policy to promulgate welfare schemes to upliftment the lower economic class, which cannot be called ‘freebies’,” senior advocate and DMK’s Rajya Sabha member P Wilson, who appeared for the party during the hearing, told DT Next.
He added that Articles 38 (1), 38 (2), 39, 41, 45, 46 and 47 of the Constitution contemplate the State to uplift the livelihood of the people through welfare schemes.
Article 45 says the State should provide early childhood care and education to children below 6 years, Article 46 says it should promote educational and economic interests of the weaker sections, and Article 47 asks it to take steps to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living.
Article 39 mandates the State to provide adequate means of livelihood and adopt an egalitarian principle while distributing material resources. Under Article 38(1), the State should promote people’s welfare by securing and protecting social, economic and political justice, and 38(2) contemplates that the State should minimise inequalities among individuals and groups of people.
States are empowered by Articles 39 and 41 to govern, regulate and distribute economic resources, and also to ensure that citizens are treated equally. “Article 39 (b) specifically allows for states to utilise economic and material resources of the community distributed to best serve the common good,” he noted.
However, not all are in agreement. Even while accepting that the Constitution wants the State and Centre to uplift the poor with welfare schemes, advocate K Balu said that freebies was a different issue which should be addressed.
“Section 123 of of Representation of the People Act, 1951, bars any party, candidates or their agents from influencing the voters by way of promises to give them gifts and other benefits after election. One could offer to give Rs 5,000 per month if he is voted in, while another could offer a gold ring. Such practices would influence voters. Therefore, making promises to give freebies is illegal,” Balu told DT Next.
The Election Commission should convene a meeting of all recognised parties to bring an end to the culture of making excessive and attractive promises during elections, he said