Election Commission wants power to deregister political parties
Under the law, the EC can register a political party but cannot deregister it.Updated: Feb 11, 2018, 07:52 IST
The Election Commission of India (ECI) in an affidavit to the Supreme Court has said it must be empowered to deregister a political party if it violates provisions of the Constitution.
The poll panel’s affidavit on Friday was in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) that seeks to bar politicians convicted for a crime from forming a political party.
The EC has not expressed support to the plea of advocate Ashwani Upadhyaya, but has referred to various measures it has initiated in the past to decriminalize Indian politics. However, it agreed with the petitioner’s concern that “inner party democracy” is “absolutely essential” for the country, for which ECI can frame suitable guidelines only if the law is amended to empower the poll panel.
Upadhyaya’s petition raises the question as to why a convicted politician, disqualified from contesting elections, should be allowed to form a party by taking advantage of the loophole existing in the legal regime. He sought a direction to the ECI to deregister such parties.
But the EC said the law permits the body to register a party and does not confer any power to deregister it. Cancellation order can be passed under some specific circumstances as elaborated by the Supreme Court in its judgements. And the grounds are when a party is declared unlawful or is found to have got it registered through fraudulent means.
In the affidavit, the commission has drawn out the proposals it has sent to the government since 1998 to amend the law and give it the authority to deregister parties. However, no legislative steps have been taken with this regard.
A set of 22 proposals for electoral reforms was sent to the Centre in 2004, which a year later was referred to the standing committee of personal, public grievances, law and justice.
The Ministry of Law and Justice in December 2010 said it was worthwhile to consider the proposal and three years later the ministry’s report on electoral reforms recommended that the ECI must be conferred with the power to de-recognize political parties on account of violation of model code of conduct. Even the Law Commission of India made a similar suggestion.
In 2016 the commission on its own accord launched an initiative to identify registered, unrecognized political parties, which did not set-up any candidate during elections between 2005 and 2015. The EC said the necessity to give it the cancellation power was also to discourage formation of political parties that exist only on paper to avail the benefit of income tax exemption.
On inner-party democracy, the panel said: “Election Commission of India endorses the demand for inner party democracy, but it is also clarified that the legislature would have to carry out legislative amendments in order to enable and empower the Election Commission of India to frame guidelines in relation to inner party democracy.”