Will appeal against SC verdict, says anti-freebies fighter

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Chennai, July 5: Not satisfied with the apex court's verdict today that under the Representation of the People Act, promising freebies to voters was not "corruption", city-based advocate S Subramaniam Balaji said he would go in appeal.

The apex court held on Friday that nothing under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act barred political parties from promising voters freebies in their manifestos. However, the apex court bench, headed by Justice P Sathasivam, asked the Election Commission to frame guidelines to restrain political parties from promising freebies to voters, so as to maintain a level playing field during the elections.

"I will go in appeal. If freebies like colour television, mixers, grinders and other things are allowed (as part of electoral manifestos) the country will go to the dogs," Balaji told IANS.

Balaji had filed a petition against the freebies distributed by the previous DMK government and the current AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu.

The free colour TV scheme was implemented by the previous DMK government as part of its poll promise in 2006, while its successor AIADMK government offered free mixers, grinders, fans and laptops for students, among other things.

Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu, political parties in other states too announced such freebies in their poll manifestos.

If an individual candidate promised gifts for votes, it was termed as a bribe under the Representation of the People Act, and the same logic should apply if a party in its manifesto did it, Balaji contended.

The Election Commission, in a letter to Balaji dated Aug 30, 2011, had clearly said: "The Commission also feels like you that the promise of such freebies at government cost disturbs the level playing field and vitiates the electoral process."

According to Balaji, the Election Commission, in the same letter, also said that as per the provisions of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, a declaration of a public policy or a promise of public action was neither a corrupt practice nor an electoral offence.

IANS

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