‘Don’t think you are the only wise party,’ CJI NV Ramana tells DMK counsel during SC hearing on freebies

The comments made by the CJI come at a time when PTR has been unsparing in his criticism of the judiciary and Union government on the issue.

ByShilpa Nair

Published Aug 23, 2022 | 9:50 PMUpdatedAug 23, 2022 | 10:41 PM

The Solicitor General sought time from the Supreme Court to file the reply to the petitions challenging the decision to scrap reservation. (Commons)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 23 August, pulled up the DMK, saying that no one should be under the impression that the court was ignoring all that was being said about the debate over freebies, referring to the scathing and unsparing criticism by Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan — popularly known as PTR — against the judiciary and the Union government over the distribution of freebies, which he believes is a discussion in “inanity”.

“Don’t think you are the only wise party that is appearing. Just because we are not saying anything, don’t think we are ignoring all that is being said,” Chief Justice of India NV Ramana told P Wilson, a Member of Parliament and the lawyer representing the DMK in the case.

Justice Ramana made these remarks while hearing the petition seeking to prevent political parties from promising freebies at the cost of the fiscal health of the states.

Echoing the sentiments expressed by the CJI, senior lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan also reportedly stated that the comments made by PTR against the Supreme Court on television channels were not correct.

The DMK filed a petition to implead itself as a party to the “freebies” case on 16 August.

In its plea, the party stated that a welfare scheme providing a free service is introduced with an intent to secure social order and economic justice under Article 38 to minimize the inequalities in income, status, facilities and opportunities.

“In no imaginable reality could it be construed as a ‘freebie’,” the affidavit of the DMK read.

PTR’s views on freebies

PTR, in an interview with South First, landed some unforgiving blows on the Union government and the judiciary over the issue.

“It is quite depressing as a citizen. Here’s a court that has so much backlog of work that it hasn’t taken up cases on whether demonetisation was legitimate. Profound issues like electoral bonds and Article 370 haven’t been heard because the court doesn’t have time. In my opinion, this (freebies) debate is inane,” PTR told South First.

He fell back on the Constitution to buttress his argument.

“Because nowhere in the Constitution has the Supreme Court been appointed as the guardian of the people’s money or all that is right and proper… Those elected — either Parliament or state legislatures — are supposed to make decisions on how public money is spent. I don’t understand where the Supreme Court comes into this,” he argued.

Speaking about the Union government asking political parties and state governments to shun freebie culture, PTR deemed the debate a “farce” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi “hypocritical”.

“It is beyond hypocritical for this prime minister — but that’s the norm for him — to make these kinds of statements, considering he flew down from Delhi to Chennai to kickstart the ₹25,000-per-scooter scheme of the AIADMK government, which we have stopped now,” PTR said.

“The characteristic of this prime minister is that if he does something, it must be the greatest thing in the world, and we must all bow down in humility to it. And if anyone else does it, then it must be wrong because they are doing it. It is the ultimate hypocrisy,” he added.

PTR expressed similar views during debates and interviews on national television. His views on the matter gained received wide popularity, with several video clips going viral.

PTR accuses BJP of ‘double standards’

Just hours after CJI Ramana censured the DMK, PTR took to Twitter talk about the “double standards” of the BJP over freebies.

Pointing out the promises of “freebies” made by the BJP in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and the Union Territory of Puducherry, PTR wondered if there was one rule for the BJP and another for other parties.

In his tweet, he attached newspaper reports about the Uttar Pradesh government announcing schemes allowing free bus rides for women aged above 60, a ₹25,000 subsidy to buy indigenous cows by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, and the recent budget speech of Puducherry Chief Minister N Rangaswamy where he declared that laptops would be distributed for free to Class 11 and 12 students of government and government-aided schools in the Union Territory, among other promises.

Tamil Nadu BJP takes potshots at PTR

Reacting to the remarks made by CJI Ramana, Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai took to Twitter and said, “This is what happens when you dig your own pit – unknowingly or knowingly? [sic]”

He also referred to PTR as a “third generation dynast, chest thumping American returned finance minister [sic]”.

Along the same lines, BJP state secretary SG Suryah said PTR was “thrashed” in the Supreme Court on Tuesday for his “juvenile and deplorable behaviour”.

“It is better for Chief Minister MK Stalin to take him to task” to avoid “embarrassment for the Tamil Nadu government”, he added.