Can’t regulate political alliances: EC tells HC on plea against use of INDIA acronym

The Election Commission does not have any legal authority to regulate “political alliances”, the poll panel has told the Delhi High Court in response to a petition challenging the use of the acronym INDIA by a coalition of 26 political parties.

The Election Commission (EC), in its reply filed in the case, said it has the power to conduct elections and register entities as a political party but “political alliances” are not recognised as “regulated entities” under the Representation of the People Act or the Indian Constitution.

It, however, clarified that its reply is limited to its role and the same may not be construed as its “expression” on the “legality of the usage of the acronym I.N.D.I.A”.

“Answering Respondent (EC) is constituted under Article 324 of the Constitution of India for superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of all elections to parliament, state legislatures and the offices of president and vice president,” the counter affidavit filed through advocate Sidhant Kumar said.

“The Answering Respondent has been vested with the authority to register association of bodies or individuals of a political party in terms of Section 29A of Representation of People Act, 1951 (‘RP Act’). Notably, political alliances are not recognised as regulated entities under the RP Act or the Constitution,” it stated.

The EC highlighted a decision passed by the Kerala High Court, which said that a political front or an alliance of political parties was not a legal entity in terms of the Representation of the People Act and there was no statutory provision mandating it to regulate the functioning of such political alliances.

Petitioner Girish Bharadwaj had approached the high court earlier this year against the use of INDIA acronym, saying the political parties were taking “undue advantage in the name of our country”.

The plea has sought interim order staying the use of acronym INDIA by the political parties and to also prohibit the use of the national flag with the acronym INDIA by the respondent political alliance.

The petition, through advocate Vaibhav Singh, has stated that these parties have said that they will contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections together against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and referred to the statements of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

“…. by dragging the name of our Nation Mr (Rahul) Gandhi very cunningly presented the name of their alliance as the name of our nation and tried to show that the NDA/BJP and Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr (Narendra) Modi is in conflict with our own nation, that is, INDIA and this attempt of Mr Gandhi had created confusion in the mind of common people that the upcoming general election of 2024 will be a fight between political parties or between alliance and our country.

“That by creating this confusion the respondent political parties want to take undue advantage in the name of our country,” the plea has said.

It has said that the petitioner gave a representation to the EC but no action was taken after which he approached the high court with the petition.

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The political parties which have been arrayed as respondents are Indian National Congress, All India Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Aam Aadmi Party, Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Nationalist Congress Party (Sharad Pawar), Shiv Sena (UBT), Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Apna Dal (Kamerawadi).

Besides, the other political parties are Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, Peoples democratic Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Konganadu Makkal Desia Katchi (KMDK), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Indian Union Muslim League.

Revolutionary Socialist Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, All India Forward Bloc, Kerala Congress (Joseph), Kerala Congress (Mani) and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK) have also been arrayed as respondent parties.

In August, the high court had sought response from the Centre, Election Commission of India and the political parties on the petition while listing it for hearing on October 31.

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