Supreme Court says debate on ‘freebie’ issue important for country’s welfare

Indian Business Express

Hearing a plea seeking a ban on the ‘freebie culture’ during elections, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said a debate on the matter was needed for the welfare of the country. Chief Justice of India N V Ramana highlighted the need to differentiate between a promise made by a politician as a ‘freebie’ and a ‘welfare scheme’.

The Chief Justice asked if a law rolled out by the Centre prohibiting ‘freebies’ would be open to judicial scrutiny. “Suppose the Centre makes a law that states cannot give freebies. Will such a law be open for judicial scrutiny?” he observed.

During the hearing, the court took exception to remarks made by Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan. CJI Ramana told DMK MP and Senior Advocate P Wilson: “I want to say so many things, but I don’t want to being a Chief Justice, talk about your party or minister.”

Earlier, Thiaga Rajan had targetted the central government over its stance on the “revdi” (freebies) culture, and asked “on what basis” state governments should change their policy.

CJI Ramana Tuesday said, “I don’t think wisdom belongs to only one person or one particular party. We are also responsible. The way of talking, giving a statement… don’t think we are ignoring that, we are closing our eyes.”

Meanwhile, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, one of the petitioners who has sought a ban on ‘freebies’, said: “ I have seen all those interviews that the finance minister of TN has given and the kind of language he has used for the SC. I think that it’s completely unacceptable. They have their domain. They should respect it.”

During the last hearing earlier this month, the Supreme Court asserted that it cannot prevent political parties from making promises and that it was essential to define what is a “freebie”.