Tamil Diplomat

Poll freebies tantamount to bribing voters: CJ

Is announcement of free colour TVs in election manifestos in return for votes a “corrupt practice”?In 2013, the Supreme Court replied that a promise in the election manifesto did not amount to an electoral corrupt practice under the Representation of People Act (RPA).

The court was then deciding a challenge against the free distribution of 30,000 colour TVs by the DMK after its victory in the 2006 Assembly polls. The party’s manifesto had promised TVs for every household. On Wednesday, Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, presiding over a seven-judge Constitution Bench, contradicted the apex court’s 2013 stand. The Chief Justice did not mince words. He said promises like free TVs and money in election manifestos were nothing short of bribery.

Chief Justice Thakur asked how instruments of amusement like free colour TVs could be camouflaged as “welfare measures” by political parties. The CJ made the observations while examining the question of whether Section 123(3) of the RPA prohibited a candidate or his agent or any other person with the candidate’s consent from appealing for votes or refrain from voting on the grounds of his religion, race, caste, community or language(THE HINDU,2016).