The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Wednesday got a six-week breather in a Delhi high court case about de-listing it as political party over contesting the gurdwara elections as well. The hearing was adjourned for the second week of July after the vacations.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) submitted documents related to the 2010 public-interest petition by right to information (RTI) activist Balwant Singh Khera of the Socialist Party (India) for de-registering the SAD under the People’s Representation Act. He argued that under the law as amended in 1989, only a secular party could contest the parliamentary or assembly elections.
On Tuesday, the Delhi high court bench of justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice Mukta Gupta heard the arguments, in which the SAD submitted that it was very much secular in character and contesting the gurdwara elections “under the statute”. The defence counsel stated further that the SAD remained secular even when contesting the gurdwara polls.
The petitioner had accused the SAD of committing a fraud by concealing from the ECI its constitution under which it had fought the elections to religious institutions Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC). The court observed that it would examine some specific questions, including whether the decision to register a political party was “legislative” or “quasi-judicial”. “It would be necessary to take a view on whether the court should interfere or not,” petitioner’s counsel Indira Unninayar told HT over telephone after Wednesday’s hearing.
Unninayar had cited a Supreme Court judgment in the Congress versus the Institute for Social Welfare (AIR 2002 SC 2158) where the decision to register a party was considered a quasi-judicial matter. She said the verdict had also mentioned three exceptions where the ECI could have the power to de-register a party, one of them being where it has signed up by fraud. The court observed it would be important to examine how the SAD could claim to be secular before the ECI and religious in its own constitution.
Earlier, the SAD counsel had argued that the ECI decision to register a party was “statutory” and not open to court’s interference.
However the petitioner’s counsel said it was a ‘quasi-judicial matter’ that the court could review.