Registered but Unrecognised Political Parties

Context: Shiromani Akali Dal rebels have approached the Election Commission to register their new political outfit.

Analysis

  • Political parties in India are governed by The Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RPA).
  • Any association of Indian citizens or body of individual citizens of India calling itself a political party need to make an application to the Election Commission to get itself registered under Section 29A as a political party in order to take part in elections and for other provisions of RPA.
  • RPA also allows political parties to receive voluntary contributions from anyone including corporate companies (but not government companies).
  • At the end of 2019, the numbers stood at seven national parties, 64 state parties and over 2,500 registered unrecognised parties.
  • The candidates set up by a political party registered with the Election Commission of India gets preference in the matter of allotment of free symbols vis-à-vis purely independent candidates. 
  • These registered but unrecognised political parties do not have the privilege of contesting elections on a fixed symbol of their own.
  • They have to choose from a list of ‘free symbols’ issued by the poll panel.
  • To become a recognised political party either at the state or national level, a party has to secure certain minimum percentage of polled valid votes or certain number of seats in the state legislative assembly or the Lok Sabha during the last election.
  • Fearing misuse of the provisions for financial contributions to political parties, the Election Commission had in 2016 asked the Central Board of Direct Taxes to look into the finances of 255 registered but unrecognised political parties it had “unlisted” that year for not contesting polls in the last one decade between 2005 and 2015.
  • There have been fears that most of such parties are used to ’round trip’ the black money into white.
  • Under existing laws, the EC has the authority to register a political party but there is no provision to allow it to deregister any party that has been given recognition.
  • With its demand to get power to deregister a party being pending with the Law Ministry, the Commission had used its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to “delist” parties for being dormant and not contesting elections for a long time.
  • Delisting merely implies that the parties won’t receive tax exemption.

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