The Election Commission of India (ECI) has told the Supreme Court that being a constitutional authority, it would not be prudent for it to be a part of the expert committee being set up to deliberate on the issue of political parties promising freebies before elections..Recently, the top court had considered setting up an expert body consisting of the Central government, opposition members, the ECI, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and other stakeholders to address the issue raised in a plea by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking to prevent political parties from promising freebies to the electorate right before elections..In its reply filed in the Court, the ECI stated that it would not be a part of such a committee, especially if there are Ministries or government bodies in the expert body."It may not be appropriate for the Commission, being the Constitutional Authority to offer to be part of the Expert Committee especially if there are Ministries or Government Bodies in the expert body. Further there are continuous elections in the country and any opinion/view / comment during deliberations in a multi member body might, in the event of being publicized, amount to pre decide the issue and disturb the level playing field," reads the reply by ECI..CJI Ramana, during the last hearing of the matter, had observed that this situation had arisen since the poll body did not take a stand.The ECI reply said that the oral observations of the Bench in this regard "has caused irreparable damage to the reputation of this institution build over the years.""The reputational damage of this magnitude does not augur well for the country which is relatively younger but the largest and stable democracy in the world," reads the ECI reply..However, the ECI welcomed the setting up of an expert body, opining that it could strengthen its existing guidelines in the interest of purity of the electoral process.The reply also mentioned that other benefits of cross-subsidization or situation/sector-specific relief as a policy instrument in addressing differential vulnerabilities of certain sections cannot be underestimated.For instance, during natural disasters/pandemic, providing life-saving medicine, food, funds etc. may be a life and economic saviour but in normal times, the same could be termed as "freebies", the reply stated..Thus, the ECI suggested that in order to take a holistic and comprehensive view of the matter of freebies that have the potential to influence the level-playing field during the electoral process, a broader appreciation of and due weightage to the multiple factors is required."These, inter alia, include nature and contours of promise, its coverage universal or to a class justified on the touchstone of reasonable classification, prevailing context, specific situation in an area, time of declaration, etc," the reply stated..It was also submitted that political parties/candidates usually begin to campaign around a year prior to the elections, and do so more intensely around six months prior to the expiry of the tenure of the House.Therefore, the ECI argued that it is possible that political parties make such promises knowing it would be banned or adversely commented by the regulatory authority which may just "serve their pose better by giving more publicity and mileage than actual implementation post-election"."Actually, depending upon sentiment analysis of the publicity, possibilities of dynamically tweaking the banned announcement cannot be ruled out," the ECI submitted.