Prevent political Parties from using public places and funds for propagating its party symbols: Delhi HC tells ECI
The Delhi High Court has directed Election Commission of India (ECI) toconsider issuing appropriate direction / guideline within the meaning of Clause 16A (b) of the Symbols Order preventing recognised political party in power from using public places and public funds for propagating its reserve symbol and / or its leaders, so as to come in the way of conducting of free, fair and peaceful election and to safeguard the interest of the general public and the electorate in future.
Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw disposed of a petition by ‘Common Cause’ challenging ECI’s dismissal as not maintainable of the application preferred by it seeking freezing of the symbol ―Elephant-as the reserved symbol of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The petitioner in his application had highlighted the trend of erecting at public places and at State expense, statues of political functionaries and symbols linked to the ruling party.
Referring to provisions in Symbols Order, the Court observed, “It thus appears that a symbol once reserved for a recognised political party under the prevalent laws, cannot be taken away. This is certainly a lacuna and which, if the averments of the petitioner are correct, has indeed been exploited by the respondent BSP.”
The Court has further observed “A political party in power cannot use development activities carried out by it and which the government in any case is expected to perform, topropagate its symbol or its leaders so as to come in the way of a free and fair election. The performance of a political party in governance should be allowed to speak for itself.”
The court said that there is no bar to a political party propagating itself at its own cost. The issue is of dong so from public places and with use of public funds to which the political party by being in power gets access, the Court added.
Observing that covering of the installations made does not undo the mischief, the Court said “The question of the installations already made by the respondent BSP continuing to give an undue advantage to the respondent BSP in future elections remains. I am of the view that covering thereof during the elections does not undo what they are capable of doing. The size of the said installations, visible from surrounding areas, even though covered, continue to remind the public of what lies beneath. In fact a covered installation is more of a reminder and has a higher impact capable of influencing. I am unable to agree with the senior counsel for respondent BSP that the loss suffered in elections is proof of the same having no influence.”
The Court issued following directions.
- within a period of three months, consider issuing appropriate direction / guideline within the meaning of Clause 16A(b) of the Symbols Order preventing recognised political party in power from using public places and public funds for propagating its reserve symbol and / or its leaders, so as to come in the way of conducting of free, fair and peaceful election and to safeguard the interest of the general public and the electorate in future;
- after issuing the said direction / guideline, within a further period of three months therefrom, consider whether the actions already done by the respondent BSP and as complained of by the petitioner are in violation of the said guideline and if finds so, to give an opportunity to the respondent BSP to undo the same, so as to in future not obstruct free and fair election and if the respondent BSP does not avail of the said opportunity, to initiate proceedings under Clause 16A of the Symbols Order for withdrawal of recognition thereof.
Read the Judgment here.