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Don't announce any scheme for poll-bound states in Union Budget, EC tells government

 2017-01-24 04:40:55.0

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Tahlka News Desk

New Delhi: Hours after the Supreme Court turned down a plea seeking to restrain the government from presenting Union Budget on February 1, the Election Commission also cleared the way for the government to stick to its plan but forbade it from announcing any schemes specific to the poll-bound states "which may have the effect of influencing the electors in favour of the ruling party".

While a bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices NV Ramana and DY Chandrachud said there was nothing wrong if the Union Budget was presented as it might not amount to violation of the mode code of conduct, the EC in a letter sent to the Cabinet Secretary late on Monday evening opined that announcing State-specific schemes or highlighting government's achievements in respect of the five states in the Budget speech would disturb the level-playing field.

"The Commission hereby directs that in the interest of free and fair elections and in order to maintain level playing field during elections, no state-specific schemes shall be announced in the national budget which may have the effect of influencing the electors of the five poll-going states in favour of the ruling party. It may be ensured that in the Budget speech, the government's achievements in respect of the said five states will also not be highlighted in any manner," stated the EC.

The EC also referred to its advisory sent to all states and Union territories on March 9, 2009, wherein it had pointed to the convention of taking a vote-on-account for 3-4 months instead of presenting full budget where a general election is imminent or when the process of general election has been announced and the model code of conduct is in operation. "It contributes to healthy democratic practice," it stated.

While pointing out that it would not like to lay down a precept or prescribe a course of action, the EC did advise that in case of states going to assembly polls, a vote on account should be taken.

The Commission on Monday told the Cabinet secretary that it "expects that the advice given by the Commission in that letter (cited above) be duly kept in view by the government at the time of presentation of the budget in the next financial year 2017-18".

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