No bar on political parties from contesting municipal polls: Delhi High Court [10.4.2024]

The Delhi High Court has said there is no bar under the Constitution on political parties, which are granted recognition by the State Election Commission (SEC), from contesting municipal polls.

The court has also said the allocation of poll symbols to political parties by the SEC for municipal elections is reasonable and not arbitrary.

The court passed an order to this effect while dismissing a petition that had sought a direction to the SEC here to stop putting the reserved symbols for political parties on the list of contesting candidates.

The plea had also sought a direction to the SEC to conduct the election to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) without the reserved symbols, which allegedly violated the petitioner's fundamental rights as enshrined under Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution.

"In light of the law laid down by the Supreme Court, the recognition granted by the SEC to the political parties to contest municipal elections is within its jurisdiction and not ultra vires. There is no bar under Article 243ZA or Article 243R on political parties from contesting municipal elections," the court said.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet P S Arora said the backbone of the Indian democracy is the people themselves, who go on to choose their representative by way of direct elections.

"When the first general election of India was held, a vast majority of electors consisted of people who were illiterate and could not even read the names of the contesting candidates. Therefore, after deliberations and after weighing different options, a system of use of election symbols for the contesting candidates was put in place to help the electors exercise their franchise in favour of the candidate of their choice," the bench said.

The court said the SEC, in the symbol order of 2022, granted recognition to the national and state parties already recognised by the Election Commission and provided for allotment of symbols to the contesting candidates.

"We are of the considered opinion that the symbol order 2022 issued by the SEC in exercise of its powers under Article 243ZA of the Constitution, section 7 of the DMC Act and Rule 15 of the Rules of 2012 is not ultra vires," the bench said.

According to the record, petitioner Lokesh Kumar unsuccessfully contested the 2022 MCD election from Green Park as an independent candidate.

He had challenged certain rules of the 2012 MCD Rules, which grant power to the SEC to recognise national and state parties for municipal polls and adopt their election symbols.

11 Apr 2024