ECI BANS USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS FOR PARTY PROMOTION
Years after Common Cause pointed this out, the Election Commission has issued an order with the direction that no political party should use or allow the use of public funds, public place or government machinery for promoting itself or the symbol allotted to it. This directive came on a “request” of the Delhi High Court asking it to issue norms to restrain political parties from misusing public funds to publicize their poll symbol.
In a landmark verdict in a writ filed by Common Cause, the Delhi High Court on July 8, 2016 “requested” the EC to issue within three months “appropriate direction or guideline within the meaning of clause 16A(b) of the Symbols Order, preventing recognised political party in power from using public places and public funds for propagating its reserved symbol and /or its leaders” and suggested their derecognition if they failed to abide by these norms. The Court said that it was necessary for “conducting free, fair and peaceful election” and “to safeguard the interest of the general public and the electorate in future”. Following this, the EC delivered the above mentioned order in respect of political parties.
Common Cause had approached the ECI on June 25, 2009, seeking cancellation of allotment of the reserved symbol of Elephant to the Bahujan Samaj 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 in regard to the misuse of the election symbol, the EC 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 EC defied understanding, Common Cause filed a writ in the Delhi High Court in 2010. It had argued before the court 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.