14 March 2023 6:55 AM GMT
The Election Commission of India has submitted before the Allahabad High Court that it has no Jurisdiction to either ban caste-based rallies organized by political parties in the non-election period or to ban them from contesting subsequent polls.The submission was made by the Election watchdog in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea filed by one Moti Lal Yadav before the High Court in...
The Election Commission of India has submitted before the Allahabad High Court that it has no Jurisdiction to either ban caste-based rallies organized by political parties in the non-election period or to ban them from contesting subsequent polls.
The submission was made by the Election watchdog in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea filed by one Moti Lal Yadav before the High Court in the year 2013 seeking a ban on all such political rallies that organize caste rallies. The PIL plea also seeks a direction to the ECI to cancel the registration of such political parties which organize such rallies.
Hearing the plea in the year 2013, the High Court issued a notice to the ECI as well as other political parties, and it also issued interim directions to ban all such caste-based rallies across Uttar Pradesh, however, since no replies were filed before the Court till November 2022, fresh notices were served to the respondents.
Pursuant to Court's last year order, the ECI filed a response in the matter last month wherein it submitted that it does not have "jurisdiction to restrict the convening of meetings and rallies on caste lines by political parties during the non-election period and to ban them from contesting subsequent election"
Significantly, the ECI submitted that it has formulated a set of strict rules which prohibit electioneering along communal lines, or seeking votes on the basis of caste, creed, or religion, however, the violation of the same can not be dealt with by the ECI outside the election period
The ECI also informed the Court that it can take action against delinquent political parties, contesting candidates, and their agents who make appeals on caste lines in their election campaign only during the election period (after the model code of conduct kicks in till the completion of polls) and that outside this period, it can not take actions against the political parties.
Regarding the cancellation of the registration of a political party, the ECI submitted that while it can register a party under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the commission has no power to de-register a political party [except on the limited grounds as mentioned in the Supreme Court order in the case of Indian National Congress vs. Institute of Social Welfare and Others (2002) 5 SCC 685] for violating provisions of the Constitution or committing a breach of their undertaking given to the ECI under Section 29A (5).
It may be noted that in the case of the Indian National Congress case (supra), the Supreme Court had explained that a political party can be deregistered when (1) the ECI finds that the political party in question has obtained registration through fraud or forgery, (2) when the political party changes its nomenclature of association, rules and regulation abrogating the provisions therein conforming to the provisions of Section 29A (5) or it intimates the Commission that it has ceased to have faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India or to the principles of socialism, secularism, and democracy, or it would not uphold the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India, and (3) when the Central Government declares a registered political party illegal for example under the terms of the UAPA, 1967.