National Politics

“EC Has No Jurisdiction”: Congress’ Response To Poll Body On ‘Freebies’ Debate


After a polarizing debate sparked by the PM’s ‘Revri’ remark around whether ‘freebies’ should be offered by political parties in the lead up to elections, the Election Commission of India on October 4 had proposed amending the model code to ask political parties to provide authentic information to voters on the financial viability of their poll promises. The poll body, saying that empty poll promises have far-reaching ramifications,  had said that it cannot overlook the undesirable impact inadequate disclosures on election promises have on financial sustainability. The ECI had also sought responses from political parties on the subject by October 19.

The Indian National Congress on Friday said the Election Commission does not have the jurisdiction to regulate issues such as freebies. The Congress went on to urge the EC to focus on ensuring free and fair polls through proper implementation of election laws.

“Such issues are part of the dialectics of a vibrant democratic system and depend on wisdom, discernment and analysis of the electorate which should never be taken to be less than acute,” the main opposition party said in a response.

Congress’ general secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh, writing to the election commission, said: “It is really something which is to be decided, be it pre-election or post-election, be it by way of electoral punishment or electoral acceptance and reward that the electorate decides the wisdom of such poll promises or campaign assurances and equally decides their breach and non-compliance.”

“Neither the Election Commission, nor the government, nor indeed even the courts, have jurisdiction to justiciate and regulate such issues. It would therefore be best for the commission to desist from doing so,” Mr Ramesh further wrote.

Congress’ national spokesperson and Social media in-charge Supriya Shrinate  told a press conference that the matter first came up when Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 16 raised the issue of “revris” (freebies), after which the EC took up the issue and wrote to parties seeking their response, the Wire reported.

The debate on the issue of “revris” in a democracy is distorted as it is the duty of any government to take care of the poor and oppressed classes, and evolve schemes for their upliftment, Ms Shrinate added.

Congress, in its response to the poll body, stressed that “the issue does not fall under the poll body’s jurisdiction” and asked “how can the Election Commission decide on the definition of freebies”.

“It should first implement the existing poll laws properly and there are more burning issues that need to be taken care of,” she said.


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