Supreme Court notice to Tamil Nadu government for TV largesse

August 13th, 2008 - 9:45 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government on a plea questioning its distribution of colour TV sets to a section of the electorate in keeping with the ruling DMK party’s pre-poll promise. On a public interest petition by S. Subramaniam Balaji questioning the DMK government’s largesse, a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan issued notices also to the central government’s finance ministry, the Election Commission of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India and DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

Questioning the legality and constitutionality of the state government’s scheme to distribute over 5.3 million TV sets worth Rs.24 billion to a section of the electorate, the petitioner sought to know the extent to which a government is entitled to “fritter away” the taxpayers’ money.

He said the government’s ongoing scheme of the TV set distribution was in gross violation of Article 262 of the constitution that mandates a government to make grants only for public purpose.

In his petition, Balaji told the court that the state government was distributing television sets on the pretext of giving the poor a means of acquiring knowledge and entertainment and elevating their life standards through it.

Balaji contended that a pre-poll promise by a political party to distribute TV sets and other luxurious items free of cost to a section of the electorate is simply an electoral offence and amounts to resorting to corrupt practices to woo voters.

He argued that such a “wasteful expenditure” would rather result in “an iniquitous social order, where the party which distributes more freebies would always be elected to power, stunning intelligent political thinking on the part of the people”.

He said the Tamil Nadu government, in order to impart a semblance of legality to its “patently illegal and unconstitutional act”, even got it approved in the state’s budget and has got budgetary allocation for the scheme.

The petitioner lamented that even central Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had endorsed the DMK’s free TV scheme during a public meeting in Chennai in the run-up to the 2006 state assembly elections.

He sought to know from the court whether the CAG was meant to detect wasteful expenditure only after it had been made and not to stop it when it was being made.

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