Chennai: Tamil Nadu
Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa's promised poll freebies, including
mixers, grinders, fans and laptops, are to roll out from
September, but her plan could hit a roadblock with the apex court
set to decide on a plea challenging such schemes.
City-based advocate S. Subramaniam Balaji moved the apex court
against the previous DMK government's free colour television (CTV)
distribution scheme, terming poll promises as "unconstitutional
Though Jayalalithaa has already scrapped the DMK government's free
CTV scheme it will have no effect on his plea challenging the
constitutional validity of the scheme, Balaji says.
Legal experts said the Supreme Court's stand on the plea in the
next hearing in July would not only decide issues linked to the
CTV scheme but also the future of freebies announced by
Jayalalithaa after coming to power.
Balaji told IANS: "The question of law still remains to be
"The question raised by me still remains valid even though the
Tamil Nadu government has scrapped the free CTV scheme," said
Balaji, who alleged that the scheme amounted to a corrupt practice
under the Representation of the People Act.
The advocate filed the petition in the Supreme Court in August
2008 after his plea against the scheme was dismissed by the
Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.
"Poll promises are unconstitutional and bribery, amounting to
corrupt practice under the Representation of the People Act,"
"The government cannot enrich private individuals out of
consolidated funds. The government cannot create a private asset
out of public funds. Giving free CTVs or other items is precisely
that," he said.
Responding to one of his complaints, the Election Commission took
the stand that a declaration of a public policy or a promise of
public action - like distributing free CTVs - was not an offence
under Indian Penal Code provisions dealing with inducement to
exercise an electoral right.
The distribution of free CTVs was a popular scheme of the
erstwhile DMK government which procured around 16.4 million
14-inch TV sets at a cost of around Rs.3,687 crore.
Referring to the plea against the CTV scheme, legal experts said
that the apex court had to decide whether to hear Balaji's plea or
dispose it off by citing the new state government's move to scrap
The court's stand on Balaji's plea may also decide the fate of
various freebies announced by the AIADMK government, they added.
"Freebies are an important national issue. It would be better if
the Supreme Court decides the question," senior advocate and
Balaji's counsel Arvind P. Datar told IANS.
The Jayalalithaa government has announced that it would start free
distribution of mixers, grinders and fans from September andaround
2.5 million families will benefit from the scheme during 2011-12.
According to trade sources, the bill for these freebies could run
into thousands of crores of rupees.
The free laptop scheme for Class 11 and 12 students of
government-owned and government-aided schools and all students in
government-owned and government-aided colleges will also kick off
According to the AIADMK government, the scheme will be implemented
in phases and during 2011-12 around 912,000 students will be given
free laptops, at a cost of about Rs.450 crore.
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