The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Election Commission to respond on a plea to restrain all political parties from distributing freebies being allegedly offered in the upcoming state Assembly elections in the five states.

Assembly polls are to be held in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur in February and March.

A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal asked ECI on steps taken to comply with the Supreme Court’s directions on poll freebies.

The court also issued notice to EC and Centre and sought their responses by May 24, the next date of hearing.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation by Delhi resident Ashok Sharma alleging non-compliance by the Election Commission of the Supreme Court directions to frame guidelines against promising freebies in election manifestos.

Sharma alleged that a 2014 notification by the poll commission on guidelines on election manifestos was an eyewash and that the EC was not discharging its duties. The petition asked the high court to quash the EC notification and ensure compliance with the Supreme Court directions.

The petitioner said by a July 2013 verdict, the Supreme Court directed ECI to frame guidelines on election manifestos. The judgement had said: “Although, the law is obvious that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be construed as ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of Representation of People’s (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.”