India

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

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

A bench of Justices MR Shah and Krishna Murari sought a response from the Central Government and the Election Commission on the petition and fixed October 18 for a hearing. The court also allowed the petitioner, Syed Waseem Rizvi, former chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board. The parties he opposed, were taking this party to action.

Advocate Gaurav Bhatia, appearing for Rizvi, submitted that two registered political parties are having the names of religion in their name. They are Muslims in the name of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and All India Majlis-e-Latehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), he said, referring to other parties like Hindu Ekta Andolan Party, Christian Democratic Front, Sehajdhari Sikh Party, etc.

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

Bhatia said parties with such names have violated the Representation of the People Act, 1951 as well as the principle of secularism, which has been recognized as a basic feature of the Constitution. He said that as the Supreme Court interpreted in its January 2017 judgment in Abhiram Singh v CD Kamchen, “an appeal to vote based on a candidate’s religion (or caste, community, race or language) or vote for an Appeal to abstain from the candidate based on these characteristics would amount to a corrupt practice.

Rizvi’s petition states that the prohibition comes from the constitutional mandate of secularism.

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