Common Cause and Lokniti Programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), launched India’s first Status of Policing in India Report (SPIR 2018) at the India Habitat Centre on May 9.

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The Delhi High Court, on a Common Cause petition,“requested” the Election Commission to issue guidelines within three months to prevent political parties from misusing public places & public funds to propagate their symbols/ leaders and suggested de-recognition if they violated norms. The court said it was necessary for “conducting free, fair and peaceful election” and “to safeguard the interest of the general public and the electorate in future”.

Common Cause had approached the Election Commission of India (ECI) on June 25, 2009, seeking cancellation of allotment of the reserved symbol of Elephant to the BahujanSamaj Party (BSP) on the ground of its misuse by installing statues of elephants at various public places in UP at Government expense.

Despite agreeing with the Petitioner’s contentions on the misuse of the election symbol, the Commission had held that the petition was not maintainable. It contended that because the State of UP had failed to furnish the desired information regarding the number of elephant statues erected and the position of their trunks it was incapable of gauging the extent of impact of such statues on the minds of the electors. The Commission also argued that since the BSP was a national party, the implications of the withdrawal of its reserved symbol by the Commission (on account of some action taken by the BSP Government in UP) must be weighed, as it may cause confusion in the minds of millions of electors, apart from party members, across the country.

As the order of the Commission defied understanding, Common Cause had filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court in 2010. It had submitted that erecting elephant statues in public places disturbed the level-playing field in an electoral contest. Common Cause had also argued that the model code of conduct was violated by the party by its act of constructing the statues at state expense. It had contended that the EC had erred in holding its plea as non-maintainable on account of non-furnishing of desired information by the then state government. The above order of the HC came on July 8, 2016.