Gifts can push the state into imminent bankruptcy: SC

The Supreme Court said Friday that gifts can create a situation where the government cannot provide basic amenities due to a lack of funds and the state can be pushed into imminent bankruptcy.

The Supreme Court also said that it should be remembered that these gifts are given using taxpayers’ money only to increase a party’s popularity and electoral prospects.

A bench chaired by Chief Justice NV Ramana, however, noted that it is also necessary to point out that not all pledges can be equated to gifts as they relate to social welfare programs or measures of public interest.

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“Not only are these part of the guiding principles of state policy, but they are also the responsibility of the welfare state. At the same time, the concern raised here, that under the guise of election promises, fiscal responsibility is removed, must also be considered,” the bench said.

The court ordered the examination of the request for verification of gifts announced by political parties before the elections to attract voters, before a bench of three judges given the complexity of the issues involved.

The bench, also including Justices Hima Kohli and CT Ravikumar, said the issues raised by the parties required a full hearing before any concrete orders could be passed.

The high court also set out preliminary issues that may need to be deliberated and decided, including the scope of judicial intervention, whether a binding order can be made, and whether the appointment of a commission or an expert body by the court would serve any purpose.

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“Furthermore, what should be the scope, composition and powers of the said commission/expert body,” the bench said in its written order adopted in a PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.

The court also noted that some of the parties before it had raised questions about the reasonings of a previous judgment in S Subramaniam Balaji v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2013), which called on the electoral commission to draw up lines guidelines on these pre-election promises in view of the legislative vacuum.

The higher court noted that some of the parties argued that the judgment erroneously implied that guiding principles of state policy could override fundamental rights under Part III of the Constitution, which is contrary to the law established by a bench of the Constitution of this court at Minerva Mills. Ltd v Union of India (1980).

“Given the complexity of the issues at stake and the request to set aside a judgment rendered by a two-judge bench in the Balaji case, we are directing the listing of this set of motions before a three-judge bench. , after obtaining orders from the Chief Justice of India,” the bench said.

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