NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Monday told the Delhi High Court that in 2005 it took a policy decision not to register any political party having a name with religious connotations and thereafter, no such party has been registered.
However, any such party registered before 2005 will not lose its registration for having a name with a religious connotation, the poll panel told a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar. As the Law Ministry has not yet filed its response, the court gave the government time till March 30 to indicate its stand on affidavit.
The EC's submissions were made in an affidavit filed in response to a PIL by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking a review of political parties having names with religious connotations or using symbols similar to that of the national flag and to de-register them if they do not change them within three months.
The poll panel has said that both reliefs sought by Upadhyay are "liable to be rejected" as any pre-2005 party cannot be de-registered for having a name with a political connotation and the use of national flag as a symbol by Indian National Congress has already been decided by the Supreme Court, which had observed that the party has been using it for long.
Regarding INC having a flag like that of the Indian tricolour, the poll panel has said "particulars regarding flag are not a relevant factor to be furnished by a political party for registration". "The present petition is devoid of merits and liable to be dismissed," the poll panel has said in its affidavit.
The EC has also said that it has separately instructed all recognised parties to take note of a Supreme Court direction not to canvass votes on the basis of religion or caste and to ensure its strict compliance. It has also said that any canvassing of votes on the basis of religion or caste would amount to violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
Upadhyay, also a lawyer, has contended in his plea that use of names with religious connotations or symbols similar to the national flag or emblem might prejudicially affect the poll prospects of a candidate and would amount to a corrupt practice under the Representation of the People Act (RPA) of 1951.
It has referred to political parties such as Hindu Sena, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and Indian Union Muslim League are examples of names with religious connotations and said this was "against the spirit" of the RPA and MCC.