The Election Commission (EC) has told the Supreme Court that the commission had taken a policy decision in the year 2005 whereby it had decided that political parties with religious names or symbols will not be registered. The Commission has stated that since then, it has not registered any political party having religious connotations in their party name.

The Election Commission has said in its counter affidavit filed before the Supreme Court that the existing political parties which are having religious connotation have become "legacy names as they have been in existence for decades" and that "Whether the names of these political parties may or- may not be disturbed is, accordingly, left open to the wisdom of this Hon'ble Court".

In its response to a PIL seeking direction to the EC to cancel the names and symbols of political parties with religious connotations, the EC has said that in the Representation of People Act, 1951, there is no express provision which bars associations with religious connotations to register themselves as political parties and that as per Section 29A of the Act, "political parties are required to abide by the principle of 'secularism'".

The Commission has also stated that as per the amended guidelines and application format issued by the Commission it has been specifically provided therein that the name of the Party should not contain name of any religion or caste.

The Counter Affidavit filed through Advocate Amit Sharma states that the EC has issued an Order on May 19, 2014, whereby it was directed that political parties seeking registration should not have religious connotations.

It has been further submitted that the prayer of the Petitioner to cancel the symbol allotted to political parties with religious connotation is legally untenable as symbols reserved for any recognized National or State Party is strictly based on its electoral performance as stated under Para 6A, 6B and 6C of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968.

The Supreme Court had issued notice on the plea seeking a ban on political parties which use names and symbols of religions on 5 September.

A Bench comprising Justice MR Shah and Justice Krishna Murari had issued notice on the PIL filed by Syed Waseem Rizvi (Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi) seeking to enforce the mandate of Sections 29A, 123(3) and 123(3A) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 which prohibit luring of the voters on the ground of their religion.

Syed Waseem Rizvi has approached the Apex Court seeking directions to the Election Commission to cancel the symbol and name allotted to the political parties that are using religion in their name.

On Friday, the Court adjourned the matter to January, 31, when Senior Advocate Gaurav Bhatia appeared for the petitioner and Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave appeared for Indian Union Muslim League which is a respondent in the case.

Cause Title-Syed Waseem Rizwi v. Election Commission of India & Ors.

Click here to read/download the affidavit