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Supreme Court Bench to revisit 2013 verdict on poll promises

GS Paper -2

Topic covered: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary


Source: The Hindu

Direction: It is an important case for RPA act and debate around freebies. Just quote ‘Balaji case (2013)’ wherever needed. Know the crux of the judgement.

 Context: The Supreme Court said it will constitute a three-judge Bench to re-consider a 2013 judgment which held that pre-poll promises made by a political party cannot constitute a corrupt practice under the Representation of the People (RP) Act.



SC in (S. Subramaniam Balaji Vs Tamil Nadu (2013)) case announced that only an individual candidate, not his party, can commit a ‘corrupt practice’ under the RP Act by promising free gifts.

  • During a hearing on ways to rein in irrational freebies, The Balaji judgment came under the spotlight after nine years.

Chief Justice N. V. Ramana’s Bench was told that:

  • There cannot be a dichotomy between a political party and its candidate.
  • What the candidate promises is what his party wants him to promise. The party cannot escape liability.


Sec 123 of RP Act:

Section 123 of the RP Act deals with ‘corrupt practices’

  • The provision says it is ‘bribery’ and thus deemed a corrupt practice if any gift, offer or promise of gratification is made to voters directly or indirectly by a candidate or his agent.


Questions on The Balaji judgment:

The judgment had clearly drawn a distinction between an individual candidate put up by a political party and the political party itself.


Rationale of Balaji judgment:

The judgment had held that it was directly part of the Directive Principles of State Policy for a State to distribute “largesse in the form of distribution of colour TVs, laptops, etc., to eligible and deserving persons”.

  • In what way the State chooses to implement the Directive Principles of State Policy is a policy decision of the State and this court cannot interfere with such decisions unless it is unconstitutional


Supreme Court’s current observation:

Supreme Court said for identifying the issue and to draw a distinction between welfare schemes and doles, its previous judgment required a relook.

  • The apex court had directed the Election Commission to consult with recognised political parties and frame guidelines for the general conduct of candidates, etc., and also for election manifesto.
  • The court said, that all of this could be included in the Model Code of Conduct for the Guidance of Political Parties and Candidates.
  • Chief Justice Ramana said, a three-judge Bench will be constituted for this.


Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Sec 123 of RP Act.
  2. Balaji judgment.
  3. Rationale behind the Balaji judgment.

Mains Link:

The Balaji judgment had clearly drawn a distinction between an individual candidate put up by a political party and the political party itself Ambiguity in the law on conducting floor tests often lead to abuses and misuses. Comment.