Election Commission directed to prevent political parties in power from using public funds & places for propagating party symbols/leaders

Delhi High Court: Disposing of a petition which sought freezing of the symbol “elephant” as the reserved symbol of  Bahujan Samaj Party, the Court held that there is no power in the Election Commission of India under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 to withdraw/freeze an election symbol once allotted and/or reserved for a recognised political party and the only manner in which the symbol once allotted/reserved is lost, is on loss of recognition.

The petitioner had sought to draw the attention of the EC to the practice of erecting at public places and at State expense, statutes of political functionaries and symbols of the the ruling party, especially in Uttar Pradesh and to freeze the symbol “elephant” under Clauses 6 and 6-A of the Symbols Order.

Observing that recognition as a political party carries a right to a reserved symbol, the Court held that it appears that a symbol once reserved for a recognised political party under the prevalent laws, cannot be taken away. This is certainly a lacuna and which, if the averments of the petitioner are correct, has indeed been exploited by BSP. The Court held that a political party in power cannot use development activities carried out by it and which the government in any case is expected to perform, to propagate its symbol or its leaders so as to come in the way of a free and fair election. The performance of a political party in governance should be allowed to speak for itself.

The Bench of Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, J.  issued the following directions to the EC:

  • within a period of three months, consider issuing appropriate direction/guideline within the meaning of Clause 16-A(b) of the Symbols Order preventing recognised political party in power from using public places and public funds for propagating its reserve symbol and/or its leaders, so as to come in the way of conducting of free, fair and peaceful election and to safeguard the interest of the general public and the electorate in future; and,
  • after issuing the said direction/guideline, within a further period of three months therefrom, consider whether the actions already done by the respondent BSP and as complained of by the petitioner are in violation of the said guideline and if finds so, to give an opportunity to the respondent BSP to undo the same, so as to in future not obstruct free and fair election and if the respondent BSP does not avail of the said opportunity, to initiate proceedings under Clause 16-A of the Symbols Order for withdrawal of recognition thereof.

[Common  Cause v. Bahujan Samaj Party, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 3787, decided on July 7, 2016]

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