Karnataka High Court has held that there is no illegality on the part of Election commission requiring the Bharathiya Janata Party to remove the party flags from their State Head Quarters, which is near to polling booth, for two days in connection with BBMP polls. Justice Raghavendra S Chauhan held that requiring a political party to remove their flags near polling booth cannot be interpreted as an act of political vendetta, or highhandedness by the party in power, or even as a measure to hurt their sentiment.
The court which said that BJP is unjustified in claiming that the sentiments of their supporters will be hurt by this, also added “The ultimate goal of holding elections is to strengthen the democratic process and to uphold the Rule of Law. Even those who support the political party have to first dedicate themselves to strengthening the democratic process in the country and in upholding the Rule of Law. After all, history is a witness to the raise and fall of many political parties. But, this country cannot afford the fall of the democratic process. “
BJP had approached the High Court praying to quash the notice by Election commission requiring it to remove the flags from its Headquarters and also to shift the Kodandaramapuram Government School Polling Booth to any other nearby public place. They contended that “the flag of a political party symbolises the party itself. It has an emotional bonding with the people at large. Therefore, the emotional bonding and the identity of the political party cannot be done away even for a day”. In response to this submission, the Election commission said “it is precisely because a flag of a political party has an "emotional bonding", that the party flag needs to be removed from within 100 meters of the polling booth. The removal of the flag of the political party is not meant to cause any embarrassment or insult to the political party. “
Notice under challenge
The notice requiring the political party to remove its flags from the building nearby polling booth was sent by the Election commission as Section 46 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976 says “No person shall, on the date or dates on which a poll is taken at any polling station, commit any of the following acts within the polling station or in any public or private place within a distance of one hundred metres of the polling station, namely,-(a) canvassing for votes; or (b) soliciting the vote of any voter; or(c) persuading any voter not to vote for any particular candidate;or(d) persuading any voter not to vote at election; or(e) exhibiting any notice or sign (other than an official notice) relating to the election.”
Sign includes flag of political party
Rejecting the contention of the counsel for petitioner that the ‘Sign’ in Section 46 of the Act, excludes “flag and images of political party”, the court held “If the word 'sign' were to be so interpreted, a narrow interpretation would go against plain and grammatical meaning of the word. Merely because a penal provision has to be strictly interpreted, does not mean that a word of wide connotations should be truncated by judicial interpretation. Such an interpretation would be violative of Golden Rule of Interpretation which imposes a duty on the court to go by the plain and grammatical meaning of a word.”
Flag is “related to election”
Contention of the petitioner was that the word 'sign' has to be read in relation to the words 'relating to election'. According to him, political symbol of the party and its flag has nothing to do with the election which is presently being held. But the court rejected this contention also and said “In the process of holding an election, canvassing of an election, both the symbol of a political party and its flag is used by the candidate. Therefore, automatically, the symbol of the political party and its flag are being used "in relation to the election" which is presently being held”.
Read the Judgment here.