A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Centre and the Election Commission to take steps to regulate poll manifesto and make political parties accountable for promises made therein.
Filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the PIL seeks direction to the Election Commission to seize the poll symbol and deregister/derecognise the political parties that fail to fulfil their promises made in the manifesto.
The plea, filed through Advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, contended that the Centre and the ECI have not taken steps to regulate political parties' manifesto.
"Petitioner submits that election manifesto is a vision document to achieve the particular goals if the political party gets elected. It is a published declaration of the intentions, motives and views of the political party and government...", states the plea.
The plea also states that "The political parties must refrain from giving exaggerated promises as it may burden the public money kept in state funds, during times of financial distress. It also agreed that not all promises are corrupt, but many are and so guidelines must be given by election commission".
Pointing to a case as example, the petition says that the Aam Aadmi Party promised Janlokpal Bill-Swaraj Bill in 2013, 2015 and 2020 election manifesto but did nothing to effectuate them.
This is happening in all states because neither the Centre has enacted a law to regulate the functioning of political parties and their election manifesto nor has the ECI made any guideline, it says.
Referring to another example, the plea said that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been repeatedly making the promise to enact a Uniform Civil Code.
"It currently has absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, even if it is short of numbers in the Rajya Sabha. In such a situation, what would be the legal hassle if someone takes the BJP to Court seeking fulfilment of the promise? Let it, at least, introduce a UCC Bill and leave it to the machinations of parliamentary democracy, to be settled in due course", the plea says.
"An election manifesto is a window for voters to see through a political party's governance agenda to make an informed decision. Voting is a transactional act. Once a vote is cast on the basis of the transactional value the voter sees in the party, a legal contract arguably comes into existence if the said party forms the ruling government," the PIL says.
"Direct and declare that the Election Manifesto is a vision document, a published declaration of the intentions, motives and views of the political party and used to achieve the particular goals, if political party gets elected. Hence, it is statutory and legally enforceable," the plea says.
With PTI inputs