‘No Express Provision’: EC Opposes Plea On Cancellation Of Parties With Religious Symbol, Name

New Delhi: The Election Commission of India, in its response to a petition seeking cancellation of symbols and names of political parties with religious connotations in the Supreme Court on Friday, said there are no express provisions which bar “associations with religious connotations” from registering as political parties, and that the apex court should take a decision on the matter.

The Supreme Court had asked all parties to file their responses on the demand for cancellation of political parties that use religious names and symbols. The next hearing has been postponed and the matter will now be taken up on January 31.

“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 EC stated in its response.

It is to noted that the top court, which had in September 5 issued notice to the poll panel, was hearing a petition filed by Syed Waseem Rizvi, contending that the use of religious symbols violates the provisions of the Representation of People Act, 1951.

“The people must vote on the basis of anything except religion. If a candidate is elected on the basis of religious symbol/name, then the whole purpose of enacting sub-clause (3) of Section 123 of Representation of People Act would cease to exist,” the petition said.

Senior advocate Gaurav Bhatia, who argued on behalf of Rizvi, said that under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, seeking votes for a candidate in the name of religion is wrong. If the candidate belongs to a party whose name has religious connotation, it is tantamount to seeking votes in the name of religion.

The Supreme Court had sought a reply from the Election Commission and had also asked the petitioner to take proceedings against the political parties who are using religious names. The petitioner had thereafter impleaded the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).

During Friday’s hearing, IUML’s counsel Dushyant Dave said, “The petitioner himself is out on bail in a hate speech case. He has named two parties – IUML and AIMIM and not Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiv Sena.”

Responding to this, the petitioner’s lawyer Gaurav Bhatia said, “Shiv Sena is not named after Lord Shiva, but after Shivaji Maharaj. The court had told the petitioner that he can implead whoever he deems necessary.”