‘Welfare schemes can't be called freebies’: DMK moves SC to be heard in freebies case

The DMK has sought to implead as a party in the plea seeking directions to the Election Commission of India not to permit political parties to promise freebies in election campaigns.
DMK Chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin with the Supreme Court in the backdrop
DMK Chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin with the Supreme Court in the backdrop

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on Tuesday, August 16, moved an impleadment motion before the Supreme Court asking to be added as a party in the plea seeking that political parties be prohibited from promising freebies in election campaigns. The DMK said that the current plea in the apex court has pan-India ramifications, as different schemes have been promulgated targeting different population demographic, and that a single scheme cannot be applied in all the states. 

In its motion before the court, the DMK has said that there is no straight-jacket formula that can decide what scheme can be considered a freebie. The DMK added that the Constitution empowers state governments to promulgate welfare schemes. “Therefore, the term “freebies” cannot be interpreted in such a way which interferes with the State’s competence,” the DMK has said. 

“It is for the government concerned to take into account its financial resources and the need of the people. There cannot be a straitjacket formula,” the DMK said, adding that the Constitution says it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making such laws, and welfare schemes are policy matters of the government and are barred from judicial review. 

The DMK has said that welfare schemes cannot be called freebies, and such welfare schemes are introduced to “secure a social order and economic justice” to “minimise the inequalities in income, status, facilities and opportunities”. 

The DMK also said that if welfare schemes are considered to be ‘freebies’, then “the ruling government at the Union giving tax holidays to foreign companies, waiver of bad loans of influential industrialists, granting crucial contracts to favoured conglomerates etc. also have to be considered and cannot be left untouched.”

“Such (welfare) schemes have been introduced in order to provide basic necessities which the poor households cannot afford. They cannot be imputed to be luxuries,” the DMK said. 

“Schemes such as free electricity can have a multi-dimensional effect to a poor household Electricity can provide lighting, heating and cooling resulting into a better standard of living. It can facilitate a child in his education and studies. A welfare scheme, therefore, can have a wide reach and multiple intentions behind its introduction and the cascading effect arising from it cannot be defined in a restrictive meaning as a freebie,” the DMK has said.

The DMK also submitted that the Union government has been made the sole party in the case, despite the fact that the petition filed in court blames political parties that are in ruling state governments. “...The issues raised in the present writ petition are of great public importance and has a pan India ramification on the issue of “freebies” as different schemes have been promulgated targeting different population demographic. Any order passed by this Hon’ble Court in the present proceeding can have a cascading effect and affect the governance at the grass root level,” the DMK said, asking to be impleaded in the case. 

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