Any action to regulate promises by political parties to give out freebies if elected to power would be an overreach unless legal provisions are put in place, the Election Commission told the Supreme Court today.
The poll panel was responding to a Public Interest Litigation filed by lawyer and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay, seeking deregistration of political parties announcing freebies.
"The EC cannot regulate state policies and decisions which may be taken by the winning party when they form the government. Such an action, without enabling provisions in the law, would be an overreach of powers," the Election Commission said in its affidavit, adding that giving out freebies is a "policy decision" by political parties.
"The court can prepare guidelines for the parties. Election commission cannot enforce it," he said.
Whether such policies are financially viable or have an adverse effect on the economic health of the state is a question that has to be decided by the voters of the state, the poll panel told the court in its reply.
In January, the Supreme Court had issued a notice to the centre and the Election Commission and sought a response to the plea in four weeks.
The Supreme Court had expressed concern over political parties promising free gifts to voters. Calling it a "serious issue", the court had said the "freebie budget" is going beyond the regular budget.
The plea has sought directions to the Election Commission to seize election symbols and deregister political parties that promised to distribute freebies from public funds. "Money of the citizens is being misused despite the Election Commission rules," it has said.
"It shakes the roots of a free and fair election, disturbs level playing field and vitiates purity of the election process," the petition has said, adding that the "recent trend" of offering freebies with an eye on elections is "not only the greatest threat to the survival of democratic values but also injures the spirit of the Constitution".