The Supreme Court has issued notice in a petition challenging the implementation of Direct Cash Transfer schemes close to elections in view of the electoral gains reaped by the party in power through such practice..The Court has issued notice in the matter following an appearance by Senior Advocate Santosh Paul along with Advocate Sravan Kumar on behalf of the petitioner..The PIL filed by Dr Pentapati Pulla Rao of the Andhra Pradesh-based Janasena Party, through Advocates Sravan Kumar and Hitendra Nath Rath contends that the same is unconstitutional and a violation of the Model Code of Conduct..The petition states,.“…parties in power have been indulging distribution of cash from government exchequer by way of Direct Cash Transfer to influence the voters. The Direct Cash Transfer schemes implementation on the eve of election and even after announcement of election has resulted to influence the voters which has violated the equal opportunity to participate in the process of election guaranteed under the Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of the India. .Besides that huge public money has been spent from government exchequer for disbursement to voters and for publicizing the introduction of schemes on the eve of elections with a motive to get electoral advantage over the opponent parties without considering the impact on financial condition of the State budget.”.The petitioner further argues that the failure of the Election Commission of India (ECI) to control the distribution of such freebie benefits to woo voters also denotes a violation of the Supreme Court’s 2013 directions in the case of S Subramaniam Balaji v State of Tamil Nadu & Ors..In the Subramaniam Balaji case, the Court had directed the ECI to frame guidelines with regard to Freebies by political parties. Further, it had called on the ECI to apply the order passed in ECI v. Rajaji Mathew Thomas & Ors for the implementation of new schemes/Direct Cash Transfer schemes..However, the petition notes,.“Since the Election Commission of India and Union of India failed to implement the above directions of this Hon’ble Court, parties in power at Center and States have distributed Direct Cash to women, farmers, students which has adversely affected ‘Right of Equal Participation of each Citizen in Polity’.“.The petition contends that there is a general pattern of direct cash distribution timed to ensure electoral gains for the political party..In particular, the 2018 Ryuthu Bandhu scheme floated by the TRS-led government in Telangana has been cited. As noted in the petition, the first phase of the direct cash scheme for farmers was implemented shortly before the government dissolved the State Legislative Assembly so that it could take advantage of the positive voter wave that followed. The second phase of the scheme was implemented a few days before polling. As a result, the petitioner states,.“Though the opposition parties opposed the direct cash transfer to voters during the election process, Election Commission of India allowed the scheme. With the help of this scheme, party in power in Telangana has won elections with thumping majority.”.According to the petitioner, this example was followed by other parties in power in the States of West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh as well as the Central Government..As far as the Central Government is concerned, the scheme highlighted by the plea is the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme. With this scheme, the Union of India proposed to transfer Rs. 6000 to 12.5 crore farmers. To implement this scheme, Rs. 20,000 Crores was allocated in 2018-19 budget and Rs. 75,000 Crores was allocated in 2019-20 annual budget, notes the petition. Pertinently, the petitioner argues that,.“It is clear from above that Rs. 2000 cash transferred to farmers account after declaration of Election Model Code and further Rs. 2000 proposed to transfer in the month of April. But the Election Commission of India has not taken any action on this new scheme because this scheme was launched before the announcement of election schedule hence the Model Code of Conduct does not apply. “.Similar schemes introduced in Andhra Pradesh include the Rs. 9,400 cores worth Pasupu Kumkuma scheme for women self-help group members affecting 94 lakh women. The second installment of this scheme was transferred two days prior to the announcement of elections and the third installment was transferred six days before the polling in Andhra Pradesh, states the petitioner..Another similar move made around the polling season in Andhra Pradesh was to increase the old-age pension in Andhra Pradesh from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 2000. According to the petitioner, this move affected 54 lakh pension holder-voters..In the case of Andhra Pradesh, it is also contended that the Direct Cash Transfer schemes were carried out while stalling payment of salaries for contract employees, bills for executing the government works/contracts etc. Further,.“…the incumbent government in State of Andhra Pradesh got approval to draw overdraft and used that money for Direct Cash Transfer schemes which is clear violation of Constitutional mandate and procedure of governance. “.The petitioner contends that such practices are in gross violation of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India which denies the equal participation for all the citizens in Polity. He has contended that by failing to keep a check on such direct cash transfers, the ECI has failed in its obligation to maintain a level playing field during elections..Further, he has also argued that such Direct Cash Transfer schemes come under the category of electoral bribes, since they were implemented during the election process without budgetary allocations as per the Constitutional mandate. .In this regard, Articles 112 and 202 of the Constitution are highlighted. These provisions only permit the use of funds from the Consolidated Fund of India for public purposes. On the other hand, the petitioner contends that during the 2019 General Elections, political parties have spent this public money for political purposes to gain electoral advantage contrary to the Constitution of India. .“Without allocating budget in 2019-20, schemes were launched before the elections to attract the voters/to pacify angry farmers,” states the plea.After the matter came up today, the Supreme Court has now issued notice on the following prayers made by the petitioner i.e..Declare the implementation of recent Direct Cash Transfer schemes close to the 2019 General Elections such as the PM Kisan, Pasupu Kumkuma, NTR Atmabandhu, Rytu Bandhu, KALIA, Mukhya Mantri Krishi Yojana etc. as as illegal, unconstitutional and contrary to Article 14, 21, 112, 202 of the Constitution of IndiaDirect the ECI to implement the Supreme Court’s directions in S Subramaniam Balaji v. State of Tamil Nadu and ECI v. Rajaji Mathew Thomas & Ors. Consequently, the ECI should be directed to prepare comprehensive guidelines on freebies, Direct Cash Transfer Schemes etc.Direct the ECI to take appropriate action under Article 324 of Constitution of India and Section 123 (dealing with electoral bribes) of the Representation of Peoples Act on the Direct Cash Transfer schemes implemented by the Andhra Pradesh government close to the 2019 Elections..[Read Petition].[Read Order].Bar & Bench is available on WhatsApp. For real-time updates on stories, Click here to subscribe to our WhatsApp.