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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.

 

Background:

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.