The Election Commission of India has told the Supreme Court that there is no express statutory provision under the Representation of Peoples Act 1951 which bars the registration of political parties with names having religious connotations.
"There is no express provision which bars associations with religious connotations to register themselves as political parties under Section 29A of the RP Act, 1951", the ECI stated in its affidavit filed in response to a PIL which seeks cancellation of political parties having religious symbols and names.
The writ petition filed by Syed Wazim Rizvi mentioned parties such as Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, Hindu Ekta Andolan Party, Indian Union Muslim League, All India Majlis-Elttehadul Muslimeen, Akhil Bharathiya Muslim League (Secular), Muslim Majlis Uttar Pradesh, Pashim Banga Rajya Muslim League, All India Christian Democratic and Backward People's Party, Christian Democratic Front, Indian Christian Secular Party, Sehajdhari Sikh Party, Islam Party Hind etc.
Names of existing parties have become "legacy names"
The ECI said that the names of existing parties have become "legacy names" as they have been in existence for decades and left the matter to the wisdom of the Court.
"The registered names of those existing political parties which are having religious connotation have become legacy names, as they have been in existence for decades. Whether the names of these political parties may or- may not be disturbed is, accordingly, left to the wisdom of this Hon'ble Court"
The Election Commission pointed out that in 2005, it had taken a policy decision to not register political parties, that had religious connotations, under Section 29A. It was submitted that since then the Election Commission has not registered any such political party. It has been pointed out that the political parties mentioned in the petition were registered before the decision was taken. It was further stated that the Election Commission had also issued an order dated 19th May 2014 whereby it was directed that the political parties seeking registration should not have religious connotations.filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in the petition filed praying for direction to the Election Commission of India to cancel the symbol or name allotted to the political parties which have religious connotations in their names.
Parties must bear true allegiance to Constitution
The Election Commission of India has submitted that as per the present statute, "It was further added that a joint reading of Section 29A(5) and Section 29A(7) reveals that the political party applying for registration with the ECI must bear true allegiance to the Constitution and the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy and also uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India and if the rules of the political party do not conform to these the party shall not be registered.
The Election Commission in its affidavit left it open for the Supreme Court to decide whether the names of the political parties which have religious connotations be disturbed or not. It was also submitted by the answering respondent that the prayer to cancel the symbol allotted to political parties with religious connotations is untenable as symbol reserved for the parties is based on its electoral performance as has been specified under paragraph 6A, 6B and 6C of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
The Election Commission also pointed out that the Court has in a slew of judgments held that any candidate can be disqualified only in the manner which is in consonance with the Constitution of India and the Representation of People Act. It was also pointed out that the Election Commission has given proposals for electoral reforms to the Government of India which included the proposal for the strengthening of the provisions for the Registration and De-registration of the political parties.
The Election Commission has filed the affidavit in the matter filed before the top court which sought ban of political parties which use names and symbols which have religious connotations. The petition filed also sought the strict enforcement of the provisions of the Representation of People's Act, 1951 which prohibits luring of voters and promoting the feelings of enmity and hatred between the different classes of citizens on the ground of religion.
Syed Waseem Rizvi vs. Election Commission of India and Anr. – W. P. (C) No. 908/2021