The Delhi High Court on Thursday told the Election Commission of India (ECI) that it should have passed a “proper speaking order” on the complaint alleging that Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) played fraud and committed forgery by “falsely” claiming to be “secular” in its application in 1989 seeking registration as a political party.
The division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said that no reasons for rejection have been assigned in the order passed in January 2008.
“Once a complaint of fraud was made, they were under an obligation to pass the order, keeping in view the complaint made,” the court said.
It rejected the ECI’s argument that the Supreme Court has held that the poll panel does not have the power to de-register a political party.
Advocate Indira Unninayar, representing petitioner Balwant Singh Khera, earlier argued that in its decision in the ‘Indian National Congress (I) vs Institute Of Social Welfare’ case, the apex court said that the EC can review its order to register a party if such registration was obtained by playing fraud on the Commission.
In 2018, Khera had approached the court seeking quashing of ECI’s 2008 rejection order, and also setting aside the registration of SAD in 1989. According to the petitioner, SAD was always a religio-political party, which maintained public alignment with Sikh religion by contesting elections to religious outfits.
The petition claims that SAD falsely undertook to be “secular” while seeking registration under Section 29A of The Representation of the People Act — the provision requires the applicant to have rules and regulations that specifically mentions that it will bear true faith and allegiance to the principles of secularism.
The petition alleges that SAD submitted a “fabricated constitution” before the ECI, and a non-secular one before the Gurdwara Election Commission.
Following the court’s observations, the counsel representing the ECI submitted that he would seek instructions on whether the poll panel can voluntarily recall the rejection order of 2008. Granting a week’s time for this, the court listed the matter for next hearing on August 1.
“If they are ready to look into it, the matter ends. If they are not, we will decide,” the court said.
Khera has been seeking cancellation of SAD’s registration since 2004. In 2009, he also filed a criminal complaint before a court in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur against SAD leader Sukhbir Singh Badal and other party leaders. Alleging that the party continues to contest both political and Sikh gurdwara elections, Khera has told the HC that the poll panel failed to act despite the “fraud and forgery” having been repeatedly brought to its notice.