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SC Says Promising Freebies ‘Serious Issue’, SG Mehta Proposes Panel to Assess Effect on Economy

By: News Desk

News18.com

Last Updated: August 11, 2022, 13:13 IST

New Delhi, India

The Central government last week told the Supreme Court that the 'distribution of freebies inevitably leads to future economic disaster'. (News18/File Photo)

The Central government last week told the Supreme Court that the 'distribution of freebies inevitably leads to future economic disaster'. (News18/File Photo)

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the freebies culture has been 'elevated to the level of art' and elections are now fought only on this ground

The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that observed that political parties promising and distributing freebies before and after elections is a “serious issue” and the amount has to be spent on infrastructure instead.

While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which intervened in a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking regulation of freebies, pointed out that there’s difference between welfare schemes and “freebies”, the SC said the effect of them on the economy has to be assessed.

A M Singhvi, representing AAP, said, “We understand that your Lordships has raised a very important issue. The word freebie is being used in a very wrong manner." The bench responded saying, “we are careful to what extent we can go."

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the freebies culture has been “elevated to the level of art" and elections are now fought only on this ground. “If freebies considered to be welfare of the people, it will lead to disaster."

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The S-G further proposed a committee with a central govt secretary, state Govt secretary, representatives of political parties, the Reserve Bank of India, Finance Commission, National Tax Payers Association, and those who support freebies.

The next hearing of the matter will be heard on August 17.

In an earlier hearing, the SC had acknowledged that some help to the poor is required, but it also wanted to know the impact of freebies on the national economy. The top court had sought suggestions from stakeholders and recommended setting up an expert panel to scrutinise the issues associated with irrational freebies.

The AAP alleged that the petitioner, Ashwini Upadhyay, has strong links to the BJP and wants to oppose welfare schemes, which have radically transformed the lives of the weaker sections of society and have been callously labelled as “freebies”.

The political party said providing free education, drinking water and healthcare is the constitutional responsibility of the government, however waiving corporate loans is a freebie.

The plea by AAP said, “The petitioner’s prayer to prohibit political parties from promising or making any claims about the manner in which they plan to meet this mandate is not just untenable but also malafide.”

It added that by removing such socialist and welfarist agenda from the electoral discourse, the petitioner seeks to advance the interests of a different, more parochial kind of politics reliant on caste and communal appeals instead of on appeals to the people’s welfare.

“The petition, while referring vaguely to ‘freebies’, clearly seeks judicial action against a particular model of economic development by exclusively targeting fiscal expenditure on socialist and welfarist measures for the masses," said the political party.

The plea contended that it is telling that the petitioner, despite claiming to be concerned about the fiscal deficit, ignores the vast fiscal losses to the exchequer caused by tax rebates, subsidies and other such “freebies” routinely provided to big industries and businesses by the Centre and various state governments alike. “Instead, the petitioner prefers that the burden of improving the fiscal health of the nation be imposed solely on the underprivileged masses," it said.

Citing welfare schemes adopted by the developed countries, AAP said particularly in the Scandinavian nations, the socialist and welfarist model of development has allowed significant leaps in the nations’ performance across several markers of progress, including but not restricted to markers like the Gini Coefficient which represents economic inequality, and human development index which seeks out an overall assessment of social, educational and health indicators of quality of life.

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first published:August 11, 2022, 13:01 IST
last updated:August 11, 2022, 13:13 IST