The Supreme Court verdict prohibiting any use of religion, caste, race, community or language to seek votes has raised several questions including if or not the apex court will force parties like the Shiv Sena, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Akali Dal and Indian Union Muslim League among others, whose names symbolise or represent a particular community and religion, to change their names.
Section 3 of the Peoples Representation Act, on which the apex court based its judgement terms, "the appeal by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent to vote or refrain from voting for any person on the ground of his religion, race, caste, community or language or the use of, or appeal to religious symbols or the use of, or appeal to, national symbols, such as the national flag or the national emblem, for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate" as a corrupt practice.
While the above section of the People's Representation Act is subject to interpretation and doesn't necessarily mention whether the name of party based on religious lines could also be termed as a "corrupt practice", two former chief election commissioners — N Gopalaswami and SY Quraishi recently said that parties whose names are based on religious lines may be forced to change their names, following the SC verdict.
Speaking with News18, Gopalaswami said, “There are parties like Akali Dal, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Shiv Sena, and Indian Union Muslim League who may have to change their names after the SC verdict.”
According to News18, Quraishi echoed Gopalaswami's view and said that changing names is high after the SC verdict. “BJP is already questioning the names of a few political parties. I think parties with religious names should change their names after the apex court verdict, but courts will take the last call,” Quraishi said.
But then again a decision like that is very unlikely, especially since the SC verdict has not been notified, and a future hearing if a citizen files a petition in the SC about the names of these political parties may or may not result in a similar ruling. Especially, since three of the seven judges headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, who formed the bench that gave the ruling on Monday dissented from the majority view.
Three judges — justices Adarsh Kumar Goel, UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud —dissented with the majority opinion and said that the matter must be left to Parliament to decide, a report in Livemint said.
And as Firstpost argued earlier, even the current ruling won't have much effect on the status quo unless the high courts of India follow. More so, when the Delhi High Court has already dismissed a petition seeking de-registration of political parties with religious connotation in 2016.
Updated Date: Jan 04, 2017 09:08 AM