According to the Election Commission, there is no express prohibition against religious organisations registering as political parties under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act-1951.
The Commission stated this in an affidavit in response to a PIL filed by Syed Waseem Rizvi, the former chairman of the Shia Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh, seeking the cancellation of political parties bearing religious symbols and names.
It was stated in the affidavit that a Bill had been introduced in the Lok Sabha that would amend the Act in order to prevent religious associations from being registered as political parties. The bill was not passed and therefore lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 1996.
An affidavit stated that political parties are required to comply with Section 29A of the Act, which mandates secularism. Moreover, it states that political parties applying for registration must have the true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India, socialism, secularism and democracy, as well as upholding the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of the country. It is also stated that if the party’s memorandum, rules, and registration do not conform to these requirements, it will not be registered by the Commission.
According to the EC, under Section 29A, they had taken a policy decision in 2005 not to register political parties with religious connotations. This party has not been registered since then, and “certain” political parties mentioned in the writ petition have been registered in the past.
In its affidavit, the EC said it had issued an order on May 19, 2014, directing political parties seeking registration not to be religious in nature.
In its decision, the EC stated that “the existing political party names with religious connotations have become legacy names, since they have existed for decades” and left it to the court to determine whether the names should be changed. Based on the petitioner’s submission, the petitioner’s request to cancel party symbols with religious connotations is legally unenforceable since symbols reserved for national or state parties are determined solely by their electoral performance.