Plea against political parties using religion in their symbols : SC notice to ECI
New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice on a plea seeking a direction to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to cancel the symbol and name allotted to political parties which are using religion or carrying religious connotations in their symbols.
The plea filed by Syed Waseem Rizwi, through advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh, said the petition deals with the mandate of Representation of People’s Act (RPA) 1951 and Constitution and how constitutional values are part and parcel of RPA and can be witnessed under sections 29A, 123 (3), and 123 (3A) of the Act.
The plea submitted that using religion to lure voters is strictly prohibited under section 123 of RPA citing the secular values of the Constitution.Senior advocate Gaurav Bhatia, representing the petitioner, submitted before a bench comprising Justices M.R. Shah and Justice Krishna Murari that two parties which are recognised state parties have the word “Muslim” in their name, and some parties have crescent moon and stars in their official flags and questioned, can political parties have a religious connotation in their name?
Bhatia said for example Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the party have MPs in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and MLAs in Kerala. He added, “This violates Model Code of Conduct. We need to see, can we pollute the politics?”
Relying on apex court judgment in S.R. Bommai vs Union of India, Bhatia submitted that it was held by this court that secularism is part of the basic feature.The bench, citing Section 123 of RPA, queried whether the bar will apply to political parties, as the section refers to a candidate.
Bhatia submitted that if a candidate of a party with a religious name seeks votes, that candidate will be violating RPA and secularism.After hearing arguments in the matter, the bench issued notice to ECI and secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice, returnable on October 18, and asked the petitioner’s counsel to implead concerned political parties in the matter.
“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 RPA would cease to exist”, said the plea.
Citing apex court’s judgments, the plea said the top court has given utmost importance to secularism and its impact on the social fabric of the nation. “Therefore, by allowing the usage of religious symbols/ names by the political parties, the Election Commission of India is defying the mandate of the Constitution,” added the plea.