Religious names of parties limit appeal: Election Commission tells the Supreme Court

Election Commission of India. File
| Photo Credit: PTI

Political parties with names which have “religious connotations” limit their electoral appeal to “one particular group” and this is not beneficial for the electoral prospect of the party, the Election Commission (EC) has told the Supreme Court.

The top poll body’s view came in its affidavit responding to a petition to cancel the symbol or name allotted to political parties which “symbolise any religion”.

But the EC said some of these party names 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 left open to the wisdom of the Supreme Court,” the poll body said.

The EC did not agree with the plea to cancel the symbol allotted to political parties with religious connotations. It said such a move would be “legally untenable”.

“Symbols are reserved for any recognised national or State party, and strictly based on its electoral performance,” the affidavit explained.

The ECI recounted that a Bill prohibiting associations bearing religious names from being registered as political parties had been introduced in 1994. It was not passed and later lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 1996.

“As per the present statute [Representation of the People Act, 1951], there is no express provision which bars associations with religious connotations to register themselves as political parties,” the EC informed.

Nonetheless, Section 29A of the 1951 Act requires political parties to “abide by the principle of secularism”.

Further, the poll body referred to its policy decision taken in 2005 to bar registration of political parties with religious name/connotation.

This was followed by an order it had issued on May 19, 2014, in which it directed that “political parties seeking registration should not have religious connotation”.

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