The Delhi High Court Tuesday granted time to the Centre to respond to a petition for restraining 26 political parties from using the acronym INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance).
A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma, which had issued notice on the plea in August, noted that only the Election Commission has filed a response and some of the political parties named in the proceedings have not been served the notice yet.
It also granted time to the political parties to state their stand.
During the hearing, the counsel for the petitioner said the matter required to be dealt with urgently, as the parties were using “the name of the country” and the national flag.
Petitioner Girish Bharadwaj had approached the high court earlier this year against the use of INDIA acronym, saying the political parties in the grouping were taking “undue advantage in the name of our country”.
The petitioner sought an interim order staying the use of acronym INDIA as also the national flag by the alliance.
The court orally observed during the proceedings that the national flag cannot be used by the political parties and listed the case for further consideration on November 22.
“National flag you cannot use,” the bench, also comprising Justice Tushar Rao Gedela said.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the court he was “representing most private respondents” (political parties) and that the petition was not maintainable.
He also opposed the allegation over the use of the national flag by the alliance parties, saying it can lead to prosecution under the law in relation to use of national emblems.
The court said it was not holding a hearing in the matter at this stage as replies were yet to be filed.
“Let reply be filed (by Centre). Served respondents are also granted two weeks to file replies,” the court said.
The political parties which have been arrayed as respondents are Indian National Congress, All India Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Aam Aadmi Party, Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Nationalist Congress Party (Sharad Pawar), Shiv Sena (UBT), Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Apna Dal (Kamerawadi).
The other political parties are Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, Peoples democratic Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Konganadu Makkal Desia Katchi (KMDK), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Indian Union Muslim League.
Besides these, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, All India Forward Bloc, Kerala Congress (Joseph), Kerala Congress (Mani) and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK) have also been arrayed as respondent parties.
The petition, filed through advocate Vaibhav Singh, has stated that these parties have said they will contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections together against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)- led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and referred to the statements of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
“…. by dragging the name of our Nation Mr. (Rahul) Gandhi very cunningly presented the name of their alliance as the name of our nation and tried to show that the NDA/ BJP and Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr. (Narendra) Modi is in conflict with our own nation, that is, INDIA and this attempt of Mr. Gandhi had created confusion in the mind of common people that the upcoming general election of 2024 will be a fight between political parties or between alliance and our country.
“That by creating this confusion the respondent political parties want to take undue advantage in the name of our country,” the plea has said.
It has said the petitioner gave a representation to the ECI but no action was taken after which he approached the high court with the petition.
In response to the petition, the Election Commission, represented by lawyer Sidhant Kumar, told the high court it has no legal authority to regulate “political alliances” as they are not recognised as “regulated entities” under the Representation of the People Act or the Indian Constitution.