The Delhi High Court through a judgment delivered today rejected a public interest litigation that sought cancellation of registration of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the ground of party having obtained registration using forged, wrong and incomplete documents. The petition had also prayed for setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to inquire into the forgedand fabricated documents filed by AAP for registration with the ECI.
The petitioner, who had earlier approached the Election Commission of India regarding registration of AAP as a political party, submitted before the Court, “The application submitted by AAP on 3rd December, 2012 for registration was on letterhead showing logo of “Dharma Chakra” of the National Flag and which usage is contrary to the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 (Emblems Act) and Section 123(3) of the RP Act.” The petition added that “AAP was formed on 24th November, 2012 and the elections of the Executive Committee were held arbitrarily, without adopting democratic procedure and that no inquiry was held on the affidavits of 300 members – while the ECI was bound to scrutinize at least 100 members.”
The petitioner also submitted about inconsistences in various documents submitted to the Election Commission.
The respondent in the present petition, the Election Commission of India also appeared and submitted a short affidavit, indicating the factual position behind the registration of AAP and submitted that no law was violated while registering AAP as a political party.
The Court thereafter perused the Section 29 of the Representation of People Act and said, “there is no provision in Section 29A, empowering ECI to cancel the registration of a political party once the same has been effected. We do not find any such power in any other provision of the RP Act also.”It also noted that in Indian National Congress (I) Vs. Institute of Social Welfare (2002) 5 SCC 685, the Supreme Court had opined that ECIis a quasi judicial authority and “since fraud or forgery vitiate any act or order passed by any quasi judicial authority, ECI even in the absence of any specific power would be entitled to deregister a political party which was registered by practicing fraud or forgery.”
The judgment, delivered by a Division Bench consisting of Chief Justice Rohini and Justice Rajiv SahaiEndlaw, notes, “From the facts as narrated above, it is clear that the case of the petitioner is that though on the basis of the deficiencies / flaws in the documents submitted by AAP, it was not entitled to registration but was registered. It is not the case of the petitioner that AAP, with an intent to deceive, stated anything which was not true or concealed anything or though represented that it will not use the purported Ashok Chakra as its emblem, has continued to do so, to be said to be guilty of fraud.”
The judgment also says, “The petitioner alleges that certain documents submitted by AAP along with its application for registration have been forged but none whose signatures may have been forged has comeforward and thus the plea of fraud and forgery is bereft of any particulars and is bald and is no plea in law. There is a distinction between obtaining registration by playing fraud and practicing forgery and registration having been effected without complying with requisite formalities and/or on the basis of deficient documents/material. We may also notice that for the petitioner to in this petition make allegations of forgery against AAP, it was incumbent to implead AAP and its office bearers who are alleged to have indulged in forgery as parties to this petition and which has not been done. The same is also indicative of the case of the petitioner being not of AAP having obtained registration by practicing fraud or forgery but merely of ECI having wrongly registered AAP and inspite of subsequent application of the petitioner having not deregistered AAP.”
Rejecting the prayer sought, the Court observed, “Thus, the grounds urged by the petitioner for deregistration of AAP also do not fall within the grounds on which the Supreme Court in Indian National Congress (I) supra held that ECI is entitled to exercise the power of deregistration.”
Regrinding the issue relating to the Emblems Act, the Court rejected ECI’s contention that it does not fall within the ambit of the Act. However, regarding the logo used by AAP, the Court observed, “he purported “Ashoka Chakra” is interspersed with the human head with raised arms on the two sides and it thus cannot be said that the aforesaid is an imitation of the “Ashoka Chakra”. Similarly, the swirling bands by no stretch of imagination can be said to be a colourable imitation of the National flag.”
The Court also relied on various precedents regarding registration of a political party and eventually ordered, “We therefore do not find any merit in the petition and rather find it to be thoroughly misconceived and dismiss the same with costs of Rs. 5,000/- payable to Delhi State Legal Services Authority within three months of today.”
Read the Judgment here.