The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought response from the Centre and the Election Commission on a petition seeking a ban on direct cash transfer schemes and announcement of freebies ahead of and during the election process.
The petition has referred to the Centre's PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme and other programmes announced by some state governments such as Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana, Odisha and Jharkhand which, it claimed, helped the parties in power at the Centre and states get political advantage in the recently concluded general elections.
After a brief hearing, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also issued notices to five state government on the petition filed by Pentapati Pulla Rao, who contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Elluru constituency in Andhra Pradesh as a candidate of the Pawan Kalyan-led Janasena Party.
The bench, also comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose, decided to look into the plea seeking framing of comprehensive guidelines on freebies, Direct Cash Transfer Schemes and others.
Rao's counsels, Santosh Pal and Sarvan Kumar, contended that direct cash transfer schemes and announcement of freebies ahead of the polls amount to electoral malpractice.
The petitioner has also sought a direction to the poll panel to fix a minimum time, preferably six months before announcement of election schedule, for political parties in power to implement schemes such as Direct Cash Transfer and welfare schemes which may impact free and fair elections.
The petitioner elaborated some of the schemes and said the Centre's PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme, which came into operation from December 2018, three months before general election was announced, by way of Direct Benefit (Cash) Transfer proposed to transfer Rs 6,000 to 12.50 crore farmers.
About the schemes in Andhra Pradesh, Rao said there was misuse of public money to allegedly bribe the voters in the name of Pasupu Kumkuma scheme, NTR Bharosa and Mukhya Mantri Yuva Nestam.
Rao, an economist by profession, said all such schemes should be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Article 14, 21, 112, 202 of the Constitution.
He also referred to the apex court's 2013 judgment in Subramanium versus State of Tamil Nadu in which there was a direction for the Election Commission to frame guidelines for regulating grant of freebies by government on the eve of elections to ensure free, fair and level playing field.