Supreme Court issues notice to EC, Govt on parties using religious names, symbols

The Supreme Court Monday issued notice on a plea seeking cancellation of registration of political parties that use religious symbols or names of religions in their nomenclature.

A bench of Justices M R Shah and Krishna Murari sought the response of the central government and the Election Commission on the plea and fixed it for hearing on October 18. The court also allowed the petitioner, former Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board Chairman Syed Waseem Rizvi, to make the parties he contended were doing this party to the proceedings.

Appearing for Rizvi, advocate Gaurav Bhatia said there were two registered political parties that have names of religion in their names. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and All India Majlis-e-lttehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) have Muslim in their name, he said, besides referring to other parties like Hindu Ekta Andolan Party, the Christian Democratic Front, Sehajdhari Sikh Party, etc.

The court asked whether the latter also contested elections like the IUML and AIMIM.

Bhatia said parties having such names violated the Representation of People Act, 1951, as well as the principle of secularism, which has been held to be a basic feature of the Constitution. He said as interpreted by the SC in its January 2017 judgment in Abhiram Singh vs C D Commachen, “an appeal to vote on the ground of the religion (or caste, community, race or language) of a candidate or to refrain from voting for a candidate on the basis of these features” would amount to a corrupt practice.

Rizvi’s plea pointed out that the prohibition flows from the constitutional mandate of secularism.

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