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  • Context (TH I IE): The Delhi HC observed that the De-registration of political parties having names with caste, religious, ethnic, or linguistic connotations has to be decided by the Parliament.
  • The PIL by petitioner sought cancellation of political parties having religious symbols and names.

Arguments by the Petitioner

  • The use of names with religious connotations or symbols might prejudicially affect the poll prospects of a candidate & amount to corrupt practice under the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951.
  • Political parties are required to abide by the principle of secularism as mandated by Section 29A of RPA,1951.
  • It also violates “Free and fair elections” which is part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution.
  • The Basic Structure Doctrine states that the constitution of a sovereign state has certain characteristics that cannot be erased by its legislature.

SC’s Observation

  • “Using such a name is not enough. Parties having a different name may be far more communal.
  • HC remarked that the matter is in the “policy domain” and is outside the judiciary’s ambit.

Theory of Separation of Power

  • Separation of powers is the division of the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of the state.
  • The IC lays down the structure and defines and determines the role and functions of every organ of the State and establishes norms for their inter-relationships and checks and balances.

Election Commission’s (EC) Response

  • The EC maintained that “there is no express provision which bars associations with religious connotations to register as political parties under Section 29A of the RPA-1951”.
  • Canceling the party symbols with religious connotations is legally untenable as a symbol reserved for a national or state party is strictly based on its electoral performance.
  • EC generally does not have the power to deregister political parties.
  • RPA 1951 only allows EC to register a political party but doesn’t give it the power to deregister a political party.

Legislative and Executive measures on the usage of Religious Names And Symbols

  • ECI had taken a policy decision in 2005 to not register parties with such names.
  • Legacy Issues: Parties with such names registered before 2005 have been using these names for decades as legacy.
  • EC order in 2014, directed that political parties seeking registration should not have religious connotations.
  • The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, of 1968 bars parties from having symbols with religious or communal connotations.
  • Sec 29 of the RPA,1951 does not have a provision that bars associations with religious connotations from registering as political parties.
  • A Bill to amend the RPA, 1951 to ban registration of political parties from bearing religious connotation was introduced in 1994, but it was not passed and lapsed.
  • While hearing the dispute between the two factions of the Shiv Sena, ECI denied both of them the use of the ‘Trishul’ (trident) symbol” due to its religious connotations.

De-registration of Political Parties

  • De-registration refers to the cancellation of the registration of a political party.
  • ECI is not empowered to de-register parties.
  • Grounds for Deregistration of a Political Party:
    1. Its registration was obtained by fraud.
    2. It is declared illegal by the Central Government; or
    3. A party amends its internal Constitution and notifies the ECI that it can no longer abide by the Indian Constitution.
  • Once a political party is deregistered, it cannot contest elections.
  • EC has asked GoI to give it the power to deregister political parties as part of electoral reforms.

De-recognition/Delisting of political parties

  • De-recognition refers to the withdrawal of recognition of a political party by the ECI.
  • Such parties are simply declared as registered-unrecognized parties (RUPP).
  • The ECI has the power to derecognize a political party if it violates the provisions of the IC or the RPA, 1951.
  • The ECI can only delist the inactive parties and refer the matter to the Central Government for further action.

Registered Unrecognised Political Parties (RUPP)

  1. Newly registered parties.
  2. Those who have not secured enough percentage of votes in the assembly or general elections to become a state party.
  3. Those who have never contested elections since being registered are considered unrecognized parties.
  • Such parties don’t enjoy all the benefits extended to the recognised parties.

Recognised Political Party

  • A recognized political party shall either be a National party or a State party.
  • To become a recognized political party either at the state or national level, a party has to secure a certain minimum percentage of polled valid votes or a certain number of seats in the state legislative assembly or the Lok Sabha during the last election.
  • The recognition granted by the EC to the parties determines their right to certain privileges like
    1. Allocation of the party symbols,
    2. Provision of time for political broadcasts on state-owned television and radio stations,
    3. Access to electoral rolls.

Representation of People Act 1951

  • It regulates the actual conduct of elections and by-elections.
  • It provides administrative machinery for conducting elections.
  • It deals with the registration of political parties.
  • It specifies the qualifications and disqualifications for membership of the Houses.
  • It provides provisions to curb corrupt practices and other offenses.
  • It lays down the procedure for settling doubts and disputes arising out of elections.
  • Provisions Related to Political Parties:
    1. Every association or body to become a political party must be registered with the ECI whose decision regarding registration will be final.
    2. Registered political parties, over time, can get recognition as ‘State Party’ or National Party’ based on their performance.

What Powers does Symbol’s Order 1968 provide to ECI?

  • An electoral or election symbol is a standardized symbol allocated to a political party.
  • They were introduced to facilitate voting by illiterate people.
  • Every national party and every state party is allotted a symbol exclusively reserved for its use throughout the country and the states respectively.
  • EC can decide disputes among rival groups or sections of a recognized political party staking claim to its name and symbol.
  • The EC is the only authority to decide issues on a dispute or a merger under the order.
    • The Supreme Court (SC) upheld its validity in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI in 1971.
    • This applies to disputes in recognized national and state parties.
    • For splits in RUPP, the EC usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.
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