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Should religious parties with religious connotations be banned?

By Anuj Cariappa

New Delhi, May 25: The Delhi High Court sought response of the Centre and Election Commission (EC) on a PIL to review political parties having names with religious connotations or using symbols similar to that of the national flag and to de-register them if they do not change them within three months.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajender Menon and Justice AJ Bhambhani issued notice to the central government and the EC seeking its stand on the plea by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.

Should religious parties with religious connotations be banned?

The EC opposed maintainability of the petition, saying the issues raised in it have been taken care of by the poll panel.

"Let us see how it has been taken care of," the bench said and listed the matter for hearing on July 17.

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Upadhyay, also a lawyer, has contended in his plea that use of names with religious connotations or symbols similar to the national flag or emblem might prejudicially affect the poll prospects of a candidate and would amount to a corrupt practice under the Representation of the People Act (RPA) of 1951.

"Review the political parties, registered with religious, caste, ethnic or linguistic connotations and ensure that they are not using a flag, similar to the national flag and de-register them if they fail to change it within three months," the plea has said.

The petition has claimed that such a step would help to ensure free and fair elections.

It has referred to political parties such as Hindu Sena, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and Indian Union Muslim League as examples of names with religious connotations and said this was "against the spirit" of the RPA and the Model Code of Conduct.

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"In addition, there are many political parties including the Indian National Congress, which use a flag similar to the national flag, which is also against the spirit of the RPA," the plea has said.

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