Election Manifesto
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This article is written by Avinash Kumar and Devanshu Paliwal.

Introduction

Indian political parties work for the advancement of the society that’s why in every upcoming election they come up with new election manifesto and they promise to fulfil their promises that they do before the election. Manifesto has become an important ‘asset’ in ensuring the winning towards candidates or parties in a general election. Now a day it has become a deceitful way to come in the power by doing false promises and after the five years of their terms, these political parties make the citizen of the country feels dull-witted or imbecile. These political leaders draft their manifesto in a Machiavellian way and as a result, the citizens feel betrayed by their work. In a democratic country like India, it is a moral and ethical responsibility of every political party to fulfil their promises mentioned in their election manifesto for the development of the whole country.

Unfulfilled Promise and No Legality

Basically, Election Manifesto is derived from the Italian word manifesto that meaning is clear and conspicuous. When any political parties are publishing any election manifesto then he is showing their view, ideology, intention, view, and their agenda, policies that they will fulfil or develop in the five periods of the regime. 

But, what happens when they don’t fulfil their promises. There is no law in India that they could deal with that. Our legal system doesn’t provide any platform through which anyone can sue in the court of law for not fulfilling the promises. 

Even, in next general election again they come up with the new fake promises and they fight on the basis of caste, social engineering, on the basis of religion and they win the election and after that people forget the promises. Even, when they remember the promise that has been not fulfilled they can’t do anything.

Should Political Parties be Held Accountable?

The motive of every politician is to serve a citizen of the country. It doesn’t matter whether they are the state political parties or whether they are national political parties. The motive behind their establishment of the political parties is to serve the citizen of the country. We are living in a democratic country and in a democratic country it is not possible that every citizen of the country contest election. 

That’s why we the people of India make the group of association and we name as a political party. Every citizen of the country has a different ideology and according to their ideology they profess and follow. So when we follow their ideology then we cast my vote according to my choice. It doesn’t matter that the one we voted for and lost. Anyone will come into the power and after coming in the power they represent us and that’s why we called as a government. 

No one says that this is your government, not mine, and the reason behind is that the government represent the whole country not the particular section of the society.

But nowadays election manifesto has become an untruthful way to come in the power by doing false promises and after the five years of their completion, they feel that these political parties make them Machiavellian. These practice has become very immoral ways to gain the vote. People termed as this government has elected through the democratic election process. Yes as far as you are right that these government has elected through the democratic election process but what about their promises that they had done at the time of election and after the completion of the government these promise didn’t fulfil?

So, after the five years of the completion, can you say that the previous government had come in the power by deception?

Let’s understand with one example:

Suppose that in the 2004, “A” political parties contest election and promised that if we come in the power then my government will eradicate the poverty and from each house one family member will get the government job. Then on the day of election a large number of voter came out of the house and voted in his favor and they win the election. After the completion of tenure neither they eradicate the poverty from the country and nor each family member from one family get the governmental job.

So, the people will stop believing in the next general election and they will opt for the another option in the next general election or either the political parties will take seriously to the election manifesto and they they will do all the possible way to fulfill the promise in particular tenure.

Why Parliament should make law upon them?

It has been 73 years since India became independent. There are many general elections held and in each general election political parties comes up with new election manifesto and after that they forget it. One of the reason for not development of the country can be the not fulfill of election manifesto. 

That’s why parliament should make a law regarding election manifesto that they can change their moral duty into legal duty. A strict law can change the mentality of the political parties that we are bound by the law to fulfill the promise otherwise we will get some other consequences. It will depend on the discretion of the parliament that at the time of making law upon Election Manifesto which type of law do they make?

Any PIL Filed in Supreme Court

In 2015, PIL was filed by Mithilesh Kumar Pandey but, it was dismissed by the Supreme Court. In PIL, Petitioner gave the contention regarding idea of making political parties accountable regarding Election Manifesto. But Supreme Court dismiss the petition on the ground of that, it is not the court duty to examine the unfulfilled promise and we are not bound to do so. 

The constitution of India provides separation of power. It means the government is divided into different branches and each has independent powers. So, one body can’t interfere with the work of another body.

The supreme court has no power to direct the parliament to amend an act or make any new law. 

If the parliament make law upon election Manifesto, then the corrupt practices will stop and this will lead to the change of moral practices into legal practices and it will lead to legally binding on the part of the political parties to fulfill their promises in any circumstances.

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Development Regarding Election Manifesto in Another Country

Issuing manifestos during election is a common practice all around the world. Election Manifesto is generally a declaration containing broad policies/ programs or promises by political parties/ candidates on political, economic, and social matters. As far as content of the manifesto is concerned, there is a thin line difference between policy pledges and promises aimed at buying votes. And these need to be differentiated, while considering the matter. Moreover, the time period for issue of election manifesto before the date of election varies from country to country.

  1. United States of America

  • In the United States, the nature of the manifesto is based on the formulation of policies and plans and each political party has different policies which covers economic policy, foreign policy, healthcare, governance reform, environmental issues, immigration, etc. Generally, they do not provide any specific benefits to a particular group, but they draft plans and policies in their manifesto in such a way that would benefit large groups of population.

  • In the United States, Central Election Management Body (EMB) regulate the provision about the political party platforms. Without the consideration or prior meeting of central EMB, the State level EMB does not include any provision. As per the charter and by-laws of the political party central committee develops the platform of a particular election.

In the United States, manifestos are issued two months before the General

2. Bhutan

  • Before releasing the manifesto for the primary round of General Assembly Election, political parties are required to submit a copy of their election manifesto to the Election Commission. Once it is approved by the Election Commission, the parties can issue such manifesto to the general public.
  • Election Commission thoroughly scrutinize the election manifesto, and remove all such issues which can hinder the security and stability of the country. Moreover, Election Commission remove such contents from the manifestos that seeks electoral gains on the ground of religion, region, national identity, ethnicity, prerogatives of the state and the king. They also check the credibility and validity of the election manifesto which contains policies and development plans, that must be fulfilled by the respective future government.
  • Manifestos are issued three weeks before the General Assembly Election day.

3. Mexico

  • In Mexico, to be eligible to nominate candidates for a Federal election, an electoral platform, containing principles/ proposals upholding on three broad issues: politics, economics, and social, must be submitted by the party for registration and validation by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) and this registration and validation of the platform is essential for nomination of candidates. IFE verifies whether the electoral platform is in line with the basic documents of the party or not. Manifestos are issued five months before the Federal election in Mexico 

    4. West European Countries

  • In West European Countries, manifestos contain policies and their budgetary implications which are more concrete in nature. It also contains financial graphs which may be submitted to a Court of Audit, to calculate the validity and accuracy of each manifesto.

Guidelines of Election Commission

A. Guiding Principles for framing guidelines

The Supreme Court in its judgement has directed Election Commission to frame guidelines for the contents of election manifestos in consultation with all the recognized political parties. The guiding principles which will lead to the framing of such guidelines are quoted below from the judgement: –

  • “Although the law is obvious that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be construed as ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of RP Act, the reality cannot be ruled out that distribution of freebies of any kind, undoubtedly, influences all people. It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree”.
  • “The Election Commission in order to ensure level playing field between the contesting parties and the candidates in an election and also in order to see that the purity of the election process does not get vitiated, as in past been issuing instructions under the Model Code of Conduct. Power of Election Commission for issuing such orders are vested under Article 324 of the Constitution”.
  • “We are mindful of the fact that generally political parties release their election manifesto before the announcement of election date, in that scenario, strictly speaking, the Election Commission will not have the authority to regulate any act which is done before the announcement of the date. Nevertheless, an exception can be made in this regard as the purpose of election manifesto is directly associated with the election process.”

    B. Suggestion from political parties

Election Commission held a meeting with the representatives of National and State recognized Parties at Nirvachan Sadan, in New Delhi on formulation of guidelines. Some political parties supported the issuance of such guidelines during the meeting. While others were of the view that it is the right and duty of the concerned political party towards the voters to make such offers and promises in manifestos.

  • Many political parties suggested that there should be a broad framework of guidelines on Election Manifesto and Freebies.
  • That there should be a mechanism that will ensure compliance of guidelines to be issued.
  • That all such promises of freebies, in reference to their social and economic impact, must be practically implemented.
  • Some political parties put forward their views with regard to timing of release of Election Manifestos by political parties.
  • Having regard to the Supreme Court’s observation that the part relating to the election manifesto should be included in the Model Code of Conduct and that such part of the Model Code may come into force even prior to the date of announcement of election schedule by the Election Commission.

Guidelines

  • Political parties should not mention such promises in their election manifesto which are repugnant or repulsive to the principles and ideals enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
  • Anything contained in election manifesto shall be consistent with the letter and spirit of other provisions of Model Code of Conduct.
  • Article 38 of the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Indian Constitution encourage the state to frame various measures for the welfare of the people. Therefore, no objection can be made to the promises in election manifesto as it is a welfare measure.
  • However, promises which are likely to destroy the purity of the election process, should be avoided by the political parties. Moreover, these promises should not exert any kind of undue influence on the voters in exercising their suffrage.
  • Along with the transparency and credibility of promises, it is expected from the political parties that their manifestos must contain rationale promises. Moreover, parties must pursue trust of voters only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled by them.
  • In 2019 General Election, Election Commission circulated the guidelines regarding the release of manifesto. Election Commission has included these guidelines in para no. 4 under Part VIII (Guidelines on Election Manifesto) in the Model Code of Conduct. 
  1. Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act mention the prohibitory period during which a manifesto shall not be released, and this is followed in case of single-phase election.
  2. At the time of Lok Sabha Election, 48-hour restriction is applied for the release of the election manifesto before each polling date.

Relevant Case Law

In S. Subramaniam Balaji v. The Government of Tamil Nadu, the issue raised was as to whether promises made by the political parties in the election manifestos popularly known as ‘freebies’ in the form of colored television sets, grinders, mixies, electric fans, laptops, computers, greenhouses, 20kg rice to all ration card holders, even if they were above poverty line, and free cattle and sheep would be hit by Section 123(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Violation of Article 14 and 282 of the Indian Constitution was also in question, as there was no reasonable classification made in the matter of distribution and in any case public funds or the consolidated funds of state could not be used for private purposes or for these purposes. It was also urged that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has a duty to examine these expenditures before they are spent.

The Supreme Court of India, before delivering the judgment, noticed the many decisions of another country.

The Supreme Court of India held:

  1. That a provision for freebies is not covered by Section 123(1) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 as these promises are made by the political parties before the commencement of the poll. It is a legitimate exercise to include these in the political manifesto,
  2. That there is no violation of Article 14 or 282 of the Constitution of the India, inasmuch this would be protected by the view expressed by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Bhim Singh v. Union of India, where the validity of Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme was challenged. It was held:
  1. The court cannot strike down a law or scheme on the basis of its viability, but they can strike down only on the basis of vires or unconstitutionality.
  2. It is not proper for the court to strike down a regime of accountability, when it is available within the scheme, unless it violates any constitutional principle.
  3. An accountability regime had been provided in Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme. To make the regime more robust, efforts must be made, but in its current form, it cannot be struck down as unconstitutional.
  4. There are prohibitions in the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme, against spending on the creation of private assets and making loans.

Conclusion

There is a lack of the constitutional provision in the constitution regarding Election manifesto that’s why all the power vested in the hand of Election commission. The Election commission has a power to allocate the symbol, recognition of national party then there should be a provision to make law upon the Election manifesto. Day by day political party is making the mockery of Election Manifesto and losing the credibility towards the people. Election Commission should come up with new guidelines regarding the Election manifesto so that the decorum of democracy is maintained in this democratic country.


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