SC Upholds EC Criteria on Recognition of Political Parties

New Delhi
SC Upholds EC Criteria on Recognition of Political Parties
The Supreme Court today upheld the Election Commission rule mandating a state political party to garner at least six percent of votes in assembly election and win at least two seats for getting recognition.

By a majority 2-1 verdict, a three-judge bench said the bench-mark laid down by the Commission is not "unreasonable" and dismissed a bunch of petitions filed by various unrecognised political paries in several states.

"The Election Commission has set down a bench-mark which is not unreasonable. In order to gain recognition as a political party, a party has to prove itself and to establish its credibility as a serious player in the political arena of the State.

"Once it succeeds in doing so, it will become entitled to all the benefits of recognition, including the allotment of a common symbol," the majority verdict of Justices Altamas Kabir and S S Nijjar said.

Justice Jasti Chelameswar, however, disagreed and gave a dissenting verdict saying that "there is no rational nexus between the classification of recognised and unrecognised political parties".

"In my opinion, this Court, failed to appreciate that in a democratic set up, while the majorities rule, minorities are entitled to protection. Otherwise, the mandate of Article 14 would be meaningless.    If democracies are all about only numbers, Hitler was a great democrat," Justice Chelameswar remarked.

The bench passed the order on the plea of various political parties including, then Praja Rajyam Party, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam which had approached the apex court in 2008 against the Election Commission's symbol order.

Challenging the constitutional validity of the Election Symbols Order for recognising the state parties, the petitioners urged that in order to provide a level playing field for all candidates, it was necessary to associate each party with a common electoral symbol which is not given in the case of unrecognised parties.

DMDK submitted it was denied recognition despite garnering more than eight percent of the votes in the state assembly because it had failed to return two members to the Legislative Assembly.

"The recognition was denied on account of the cumulative effect of the requirement that a political party would not only have to secure not less than 6 percent of the total valid votes polled, but it had also to return at least 2 members to the Legislative Assembly," it submitted.

The bench, however, was not satisfied with the contentions of the DMDK and other political parties and dismissed their plea.

"Nothing new has been brought out in the submissions made on behalf of the writ petitioners which could make us take a different view from what has been decided earlier," it said.

The majority verdict further said that a voter has the right to know the antecedents of the candidates but such right has to be balanced with the ground realities of conducting a State-wide poll.

"The Election Commission has kept the said balance in mind while setting the bench-marks to be achieved by a political party in order to be recognized as a State Party and become eligible to be given a common election symbol.

"We do not see any variance between the views expressed by the Constitution Bench in the PUCL case and the amendments effected by the Election Commission to the Election Symbols Order, 1968, by its Notification dated December 1, 2000," the bench said.
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