News: The Supreme Court Monday issued notice on a plea seeking cancellation of registration of political parties that use religious symbols or names of religions in their nomenclature.
GS Paper 3: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
Significance of symbols in elections:
- Symbols are campaigning tools for parties. It helps several nondescript and small political parties to connect with the voters.
- Since India’s first national polls in 1951-52 symbols have become a crucial part of the electoral process.
- Reason for allocation of visual symbols to parties and candidates: To help 85 % of the electorate who were illiterate at that point, to identify the party of their choice.
Types of symbols as per the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) (Amendment) Order, 2017:
- Party symbols are either “reserved” or “free”.
- “Reserved” symbols” are allotted to eight national parties and 64 state parties across the country.
- “Free” symbols are allotted to the thousands of unrecognized regional parties from the Election Commission’s pool of nearly 200 symbols.
- Unrecognized parties in India: EC maintains that there are 2,538 unrecognized parties India.
- A recognized state party of a particular state can “reserve” the symbol and can use it to contest elections in another state ,provided the symbol is not being used or bears resemblance to that of any other party.
Procedure to allot symbols to political parties:
- Election Commission order,1968 to provide for “specification, reservation, choice and allotment of symbols at parliamentary and assembly elections, for the recognition of political parties”.
- Guidelines for symbol allocation: Among the list of three symbols from the EC’s free symbols list , one symbol is allotted to the party/candidate on a first-come-first-serve basis to party candidate.
- Election Commission takes the decision on assigning the symbol in case of split in recognised political party .
Basis on which Election Commission decide on party symbol disputes:
- Under Paragraph 15 Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 EC decides party symbol disputes among rival groups or sections of a recognized political party staking claim to its name and symbol.
- Paragraph 15 provides that EC is the only authority to decide issues on a dispute or a merger. This was validated in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI case in 1971 by Supreme Court.
- EC before recognizing one group as the official party ascertains the support enjoyed by a claimant within a political party in its organizational wing and in its legislative wing.
- ECI examines the party’s constitution and its list of office-bearers submitted when the party was united to decide of majority in organizational and legislative wing. In case of Organisational wing ECI decides the dispute based on how many office-bearers, members or delegates support the rival claimants. While in case of legislative wing, the party decides by the number of MPs and MLAs in the rival camps. It may also consider affidavits filed by these members.
- After definite finding ECI decide the dispute for name and symbol of the recognized party in favor of that faction which commands enough support in its organizational and legislative wings . ECI may give permission to other group to register itself as a separate political party.
- In case of uncertainty about the majority of either faction EC may freeze the party’s symbol and allow the groups to register themselves with new names or add prefixes or suffixes to the party’s existing names.
- Decision of dispute in case of immediate electoral purposes: Since, EC may take time to gather enough material for decision. But in case of urgency, it may freeze the party’s symbol and advise the groups to fight the elections in different names and on temporary symbols.
- In case rival factions settle their differences in future the claimants may approach the EC again and seek to be recognised as a unified party.ECI may restore the symbol and name of the original party.
Source: Indian Express, The Hindu, PIB
- PIB:-(Amendment of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968)_https://bit.ly/3RP0APp
- Indian Express:-(Explained: When parties split, how does EC decide who gets the symbol?);https://bit.ly/3Dbq4m1
- The Hindu:-(How Election Commission decides on party symbol disputes):https://bit.ly/3Qxywz3